Extinction: Everything You Need to Know
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) used a technique called extinction. This is used to eliminate or reduce the problem behaviors within a child. Extinction focuses on the reinforcement (what allows the problem to continue) and slowly reduces or eliminates it. The reinforcement has been allowed to continue, unknowingly, and it’s often the reason why the problem behavior has never improved.
Typically, extinction is used for those with down syndrome and ASD (autism spectrum disorder); however, it can be used on any child or adult with no special needs condition. So, what do you need to know about extinction?
The Types of Extinction
It’s important to understand the various types of extinction. So, there are three forms of extinction, those are:
- The Sensory Extinction
This deals with behaviors that are created by a simple automatic reinforcement. For example, a room has a cooling fan, and the child continues to switch it on and off. So, if you remove the automatic reinforcement – the cold air the child enjoys – it prevents the continued problem behavior. The child can’t turn the fan on or off if it isn’t in the room.
- The Escape Extinction
This deals with the problem behavior that is allowed to form because of negative reinforcement. For example, a child is asked to tidy their room. He refuses and throws a tantrum, so the parent makes the child face the wall as punishment. While this is a simple disciplinary technique, it might not work in every situation because the child doesn’t clean the room. As a result, the child knows he can continue to throw a tantrum and won’t have to do what’s being asked. Instead, the parent needs to let the child throw the tantrum but insist on them tidying their room.
It will remove the negative reinforcement and possibly ease the problem behaviors.
The Positive Reinforcement
This aims to tackle problem behaviors brought on by positive reinforcement. For example, an 8-year-old child asks his mother to spoon-feed him. Since he asks so politely and the mother wants to maintain her child, she spoon-feeds the child. Instead, the parent must ignore the request and encourage them to feed themselves. This is the only way to remove the problem. It will reinforce that the child must learn to eat by themselves.
What Happens After Extinction?
You may experience an extinction burst. Typically, the child’s behavior gets temporarily worse before it improves. It might return at some point, too; however, that doesn’t mean to say you shouldn’t attempt extinction. This is a useful technique to remove certain problem behaviors from a child. It might take a while for you to see the results, but it’s worth it as it helps the child.
Extinction requires time and a lot of determination. It’s easy to say you want to try extinction, but the reality is that it’s tough. Children need to learn new behaviors, and because the problem behaviors are a part of their routine, they want to hold on to what they’re comfortable with. You may need to seek the help of a professional before trying with your child; it’s not an easy task to get spot-on.