The term “extinction” automatically conjures up mental images of long-gone dinosaurs and dodos. But our Cleveland ABA therapists are familiar with it for another reason. It’s a procedure we frequently use to reduce interfering behaviors for children on the autism spectrum or with other conditions.
“Interfering behaviors,” as noted by researchers at the at the M.I.N.D. Institute and the National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders, are those that are disruptive or restrictive behaviors that can interfere with optimal development, learning and/or achievement.
“Extinction” is a formal term, but it basically means our ABA therapists want to get to the bottom of the function or cause of a certain behavior and then terminate access to that function in order to extinguish the behavior. We have to examine what is happening before and after the behavior in question to figure out how it’s being reinforced so we can understand why it’s still occurring. Then we cut off that reinforcement.
Extinction is frequently used to target or reduce interfering behaviors such as:
- Excessive scratching/picking.