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ABA

What Is Extinction in ABA Therapy?

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Janice

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Extinction is a fundamental concept in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy, a widely used approach to treating individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other developmental disabilities. Extinction refers to the process of reducing or eliminating a behavior by withholding the reinforcement that previously maintained it. In other words, extinction occurs when a behavior that was previously rewarded is no longer reinforced, which results in a decrease in the frequency, duration, or intensity of that behavior over time.

In ABA therapy, extinction is often used in combination with reinforcement to shape and modify behavior. Reinforcement involves providing a consequence that increases the likelihood of a behavior occurring again in the future, while extinction involves withholding reinforcement to decrease a behavior. By using extinction, therapists can help individuals with ASD to make challenging behaviours be less relevant and replace them with more appropriate ones. However, extinction can also have unintended consequences, such as an increase in the frequency or intensity of the behavior in the short term, known as an extinction burst, or a temporary return of the behavior after it has been successfully reduced or eliminated, known as spontaneous recovery. Therefore, implementing extinction strategies should be under the guidance of a behaviour analyst to make sure there are no unwanted effects to the child.

Key Takeaways

  • Extinction is a process of reducing or eliminating a behavior by withholding the reinforcement that previously maintained it.
  • Extinction is often used in combination with reinforcement to shape and modify behavior in ABA therapy.
  • Extinction can have unintended consequences, such as an extinction burst or spontaneous recovery, which should be taken into consideration when designing an effective extinction plan.

Understanding ABA Therapy

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a scientific approach to understanding behavior and how it is affected by the environment. ABA therapy is a type of therapy that uses the principles of ABA to improve socially significant behaviors in individuals with various disabilities, including autism spectrum disorder (ASD), developmental disabilities, and behavioral disorders.

ABA therapy is based on the work of B.F. Skinner, a psychologist who developed the principles of operant conditioning. Operant conditioning is the process of learning through consequences, where behaviors that are followed by positive consequences are more likely to be repeated in the future, while behaviors that are followed by negative consequences are less likely to be repeated.

ABA therapy involves breaking down complex behaviors into smaller, more manageable components and teaching them through a process of reinforcement and shaping. Reinforcement involves providing positive consequences, such as praise or rewards, for desired behaviors, while shaping involves gradually increasing the complexity of the behavior.

ABA therapy is often used to improve communication, social skills, and academic skills, as well as to reduce problem behaviors. It is a highly individualized therapy, with treatment plans tailored to the specific needs of each individual.

Overall, ABA therapy is a widely recognized and effective approach to improving behavior in individuals with disabilities. It is grounded in scientific principles and has been shown to produce significant improvements in a variety of areas.

The Concept of Extinction in ABA Therapy

Extinction is a behavioral process that involves the reduction or elimination of a behavior by withholding the reinforcement that previously maintained it. In ABA therapy, extinction is used to decrease or eliminate problem behavior by removing the reinforcement that is maintaining it.

ABA therapists use extinction as a technique to address maladaptive behaviors that are negatively impacting the individual’s life. Extinction is often used in conjunction with reinforcing alternative behaviors to replace the problem behavior.

During extinction, the behavior that was previously reinforced no longer results in the same consequence. This can lead to an increase in the behavior initially, known as an extinction burst, as the individual tries to obtain the reinforcement that was previously available. However, if the reinforcement is consistently withheld, the behavior will eventually decrease and may even become extinct.

It is important to note that extinction should only be used for negative behavior that is no longer necessary or adaptive. If a behavior serves an important function, such as communication or self-care, it should not be targeted for extinction without a replacement behavior being taught first. In addition, extinction is not the same thing as punishment. There are no punishing qualities in extinction but behaviours that are warranted to be extinct should be thoroughly assessed and evaluated.

In ABA therapy, extinction is most effective when used in combination with other techniques such as reinforcement of alternative behavior, stimulus control, and consequence manipulation. By using extinction in a targeted and strategic manner, ABA therapists can help individuals replace problem behavior with more adaptive and functional behaviors.

The Role of Reinforcement

Reinforcement is a fundamental concept in ABA therapy. It involves providing a consequence (positive or negative) to increase the likelihood of a target behavior occurring again in the future. In ABA therapy, reinforcement is used to teach new skills, increase appropriate behaviors, and decrease problematic behaviors.

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement involves providing a desirable consequence (reinforcer) immediately after a target behavior occurs. This increases the likelihood of the behavior occurring again in the future. Examples of reinforcers include praise, toys, food, and access to preferred activities. Positive reinforcement is often used in ABA therapy to teach new skills and increase appropriate behaviors.

Negative Reinforcement

Negative reinforcement involves removing an aversive stimulus immediately after a target behavior occurs. This increases the likelihood of the behavior occurring again in the future. Examples of aversive stimuli include loud noises, bright lights, or uncomfortable situations. Negative reinforcement is often used in ABA therapy to increase appropriate behaviors and decrease problematic behaviors.

Automatic Reinforcement

Automatic reinforcement occurs when a behavior produces its own reinforcement. For example, a child may engage in repetitive behaviors (e.g., hand flapping) because it produces a sensory stimulation that they find reinforcing. Automatic reinforcement can be challenging to address in ABA therapy, as it does not involve an external reinforcer.

Differential Reinforcement

Differential reinforcement involves reinforcing a specific behavior while withholding reinforcement for other behaviors. This can be used to increase appropriate behaviors while decreasing problematic behaviors. For example, a child who engages in hitting may be taught to communicate their needs instead. In this case, hitting would be ignored (withheld reinforcement), while communication would be reinforced.

Token Economy

Token economy is a system in which tokens (e.g., stickers, points) are given for appropriate behavior, which can then be exchanged for a desired reward. Token economy can be used to increase appropriate behaviors and decrease problematic behaviors. It is often used in group settings, such as classrooms or therapy groups.

In summary, reinforcement plays a critical role in ABA therapy. Positive and negative reinforcement can be used to increase appropriate behaviors, while differential reinforcement can be used to decrease problematic behaviors. Automatic reinforcement and token economy are also important concepts to consider in ABA therapy.

Extinction Burst and Spontaneous Recovery

In ABA therapy, extinction is a process of decreasing the frequency of a behavior by withholding the reinforcement that previously maintained it. This process is often accompanied by two phenomena: extinction burst and spontaneous recovery.

An extinction burst is a temporary increase in the frequency, intensity, or duration of the behavior that is being targeted for extinction. For example, if a child is used to receiving attention for tantrums, when the attention is no longer given, the child may initially intensify the tantrum behavior before it decreases. Planning for extinction bursts are important, if this is something parents or caregivers can not get past or understand, then extinction is not a strategy that should be implemented.

Spontaneous recovery, on the other hand, is the reappearance of the behavior after it has been extinguished. This can happen even after a long period of time has passed since the behavior was last reinforced. For example, if a child has learned to say “please” instead of demanding, and the reinforcement for saying “please” is removed, the child may start demanding again after some time has passed.

It is important to note that both extinction burst and spontaneous recovery are natural parts of the extinction process and do not necessarily indicate that the intervention is not working. ABA therapists should be aware of these phenomena and prepare for them accordingly.

To minimize the effects of extinction burst, therapists may consider reinforcing alternative behaviors that are more appropriate and functional. This can help to provide the child with an alternative method of obtaining the same reinforcement that was previously obtained by the target behavior.

To prevent spontaneous recovery, therapists may consider gradually fading out reinforcement rather than stopping it abruptly. This can help to ensure that the behavior is fully extinguished before reinforcement is removed completely.

In summary, extinction burst and spontaneous recovery are two phenomena that can occur during the extinction process in ABA therapy. While they may be challenging, they are natural parts of the process and can be managed effectively with appropriate strategies.

The Impact of Extinction on Different Behaviors

Extinction is a behavioral intervention in which a previously reinforced behavior is no longer reinforced which is not the same as punishment strategies, leading to a decrease in the frequency and intensity of that behavior. Extinction is widely used in ABA therapy to reduce the occurrence of problematic behaviors and increase positive behaviors.

The impact of extinction varies depending on the behavior being targeted. For example, in the case of attention-seeking behavior, the behavior may initially increase in frequency and intensity when extinction is applied. This is because the individual may become frustrated and try harder to get attention. However, with consistency and patience, the behavior will eventually decrease in frequency and intensity.

In the case of self-injurious behavior, extinction has been shown to be effective in reducing the severity and frequency of the behavior. However, it is important to identify replacement behaviors that can be reinforced instead of the self-injurious behavior.

Extinction can also be effective in reducing disruptive behavior, such as screaming or aggression. However, it is important to identify the function of the behavior and address the underlying cause. For example, if the behavior is a result of sensory issues, sensory interventions may be more effective than extinction.

It is important to note that extinction should always be used in conjunction with other interventions and strategies. For example, teaching replacement behaviors, providing positive reinforcement for appropriate behavior, and addressing underlying issues such as sensory or motivational factors.

In conclusion, extinction can be an effective intervention in reducing problematic behaviors in individuals with autism spectrum disorders. However, it is important to consider the individual’s specific needs and behaviors, and to use extinction in conjunction with other interventions and strategies. With consistency, patience, and appropriate replacement behaviors, extinction can lead to significant improvements in behavior and quality of life for individuals with autism and their caregivers.

Designing an Effective Extinction Plan

An extinction plan is a critical component of an intervention plan in ABA therapy. It involves the systematic removal of reinforcement for a specific behavior that the therapist seeks to reduce or eliminate. The goal of an extinction plan is to decrease the frequency, intensity, and duration of the target behavior by making it less likely to occur in the future.

To design an effective extinction plan, the therapist needs to follow a few essential steps. First, the therapist must identify the target behavior that needs to be extinguished. This behavior should be clearly defined, observable, and measurable. The therapist should also assess the function of the behavior to understand why the individual is engaging in it.

Once the target behavior has been identified, the therapist needs to determine the appropriate access to reinforcement. The therapist should identify all the possible sources of reinforcement that maintain the target behavior. This could be anything from attention, tangible items, or access to preferred activities. The therapist should also identify any potential sources of reinforcement that the individual may access outside of the therapy session.

The next step is to link the target behavior to the extinction procedure. The therapist should inform the individual and their caregivers that the behavior will no longer be reinforced. This should be done in a clear, concise, and neutral manner. The therapist should also explain the rationale behind the extinction procedure and how it will benefit the individual in the long run.

Finally, the therapist needs to develop an intervention plan that includes alternative behaviors that the individual can engage in instead of the target behavior. The therapist should teach the individual new skills that will serve the same function as the target behavior. This could be anything from requesting attention appropriately, engaging in alternative activities, or using a communication device.

In summary, designing an effective extinction plan involves identifying the target behavior, assessing the function of the behavior, determining access to reinforcement, linking the target behavior to the extinction procedure, and developing an intervention plan that includes alternative behaviors. By following these steps, the therapist can design an effective extinction plan that will help the individual reduce or eliminate the target behavior.

Safety Considerations in Implementing Extinction

Extinction is a behavioral intervention that involves withholding reinforcement for a behavior, with the aim of reducing or eliminating that behavior. While it can be an effective tool in ABA therapy, there are some safety considerations that must be taken into account when implementing extinction.

One of the primary safety concerns when using extinction is the potential for an increase in the frequency and intensity of the behavior being targeted in an extinction burst phase. This can occur if the extinction procedure is not implemented correctly, or if the behavior being targeted is particularly intense or dangerous. For example, if a child with autism engages in self-injurious behavior, such as head-banging, it may not be safe to implement extinction without first consulting with a qualified ABA therapist such as a Board Certified Behaviour Analyst®.

Another safety concern when using extinction is the potential for unintended side effects. For example, if a child is used to receiving reinforcement for a certain behavior, and that reinforcement is suddenly removed, they may become frustrated or upset. This can lead to an increase in other problem behaviors, such as aggression or tantrums. It is important to carefully monitor the child’s behavior during the extinction process to ensure that unintended side effects are minimized.

It is also important to consider the safety of the environment in which extinction is being implemented. For example, if a child with autism is engaging in problem behavior near a soda machine, it may be necessary to temporarily remove the soda machine from the environment to ensure the child’s safety during the extinction process.

In conclusion, while extinction can be an effective tool in ABA therapy, it is important to carefully consider safety concerns before implementing this intervention. A qualified ABA therapist should be consulted to ensure that the extinction procedure is implemented correctly and that potential side effects are minimized. The safety of the environment in which extinction is being implemented should also be carefully considered to ensure that the child is not at risk of harm.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some examples of extinction in ABA therapy?

Extinction in ABA therapy involves withholding reinforcement for a behavior that was previously reinforced, resulting in a decrease in the frequency of that behavior. For example, if a child with autism engages in tantrums to get attention, the therapist may implement an extinction procedure by ignoring the tantrums, thus removing the attention that was reinforcing the behavior.

What are the pros and cons of using extinction in ABA therapy?

The main advantage of using extinction in ABA therapy is that it can be an effective way to decrease problem behavior. However, it is important to note that extinction can be difficult to implement correctly and may not work for all behaviors. Additionally, extinction can lead to an initial increase in the frequency or intensity of the behavior before it decreases, which can be challenging for caregivers and therapists to manage.

What are the side effects of using extinction in ABA therapy?

Research suggests that the use of extinction in ABA therapy may produce adverse side effects, including an increase in the frequency of the target behavior (extinction burst) and an increase in aggression. It is important for therapists to carefully monitor the implementation of extinction procedures and be prepared to modify them as needed to ensure the safety of the individual receiving therapy.

How do you implement extinction procedures in ABA therapy?

To implement an extinction procedure in ABA therapy, the therapist first identifies the behavior to be targeted and the reinforcement that is maintaining that behavior. The therapist then withholds the reinforcement for the behavior, while continuing to reinforce appropriate alternative behaviors. It is important for the therapist to carefully monitor the individual’s behavior and make adjustments to the extinction procedure as needed.

What are some reinforcement examples of using extinction in the classroom?

In the classroom, extinction procedures can be used to decrease problem behaviors such as calling out or interrupting. For example, if a student calls out frequently during class, the teacher can implement an extinction procedure by ignoring the behavior and only responding when the student raises their hand to speak.

When is it appropriate to use extinction in ABA therapy?

Extinction procedures should only be used when other behavior change strategies have been ineffective or are not appropriate for the individual’s needs. Additionally, it is important to consider the potential risks and benefits of using extinction and to carefully monitor the individual’s behavior throughout the procedure. Therapists should also be prepared to modify or discontinue the procedure if necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of the individual receiving therapy.

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