Extinction

It has been a while since I have really taken the time to write a new post and a lot has been going on. Silas is really progressing with his speech. We do have a long way to go but every day he is surprising us with new words and communication skills. In the last few meetings with his ABA therapist and case worker we have been discussing some of his “behaviors.”

An example of this, which is particularly annoying, is his obsession with repetitive requests. Here is a scenario of this happening…

We are reading Green Eggs and Ham. Silas is sitting next to me while I start on the first page. He immediately starts flipping through the pages before I can get any words out until he gets to the last page. He then looks at me and says “The end.” He will keep repeating this until I say it back, sometimes until I say in the tone he wants. Once I do finally say it back to him he will then say “All done.” and the same thing continues. He will do this over and over and over again. Once he is done with the book we are currently on he runs and gets another one just to repeat what we just did. This goes on for extended periods of time until I end up taking the books from him. We sometimes fight over this because I refuse to repeat him and just ignore him. He will do practically anything he can to get me to comply with what he wants.

After discussing this with the case worker I was instructed to put away all of his books. I did this on May 13th. Until we are ready to combat Silas on this issue as a unit (family, daycare, and therapists) his books will remain put up. The case worker described how the process of breaking this habit will go and I am not excited in the least bit. The process is called extinction and we will use this to break all of these “bad” habits which we have been discussing in our meetings.

extinction

An extinction procedure is essentially an intervention that makes a behavior occur less often or stop occurring altogether. Extinction procedures apply the “principle of extinction” which proposes that because behaviors occur for a reason – they get us things we want – if we stop getting what we want after we engage in a certain behavior then that behavior will eventually stop occurring because it no longer serves any purpose for us.

Said another way, any behavior we engage in will become “extinct” (stop occurring) if it no longer has a function. Applying the principle of extinction to implement an extinction procedure means that you would deliberately stop allowing a behavior – a “target behavior” – to obtain the reinforcing outcome(s) that the behavior has always previously gotten. This procedure then makes the behavior ineffective and so it will occur less and less until it eventually stops altogether. You could describe it as a procedure where you would stop giving the behavior “what it wants” and what it has always gotten in the past.

Sounds like fun right? So once we start this process and Silas is going crazy because we will not repeat what he is wanting us to say, it is a battle to outlast him by either completely ignoring him or attempting to redirect his attention to something else. No matter what he is doing, what time it is, where we are, whatever, we cannot give in to him because then that will set the standard for him to get what he wants the next time. For example, if it takes him 10 minutes of constant badgering to get what he wants then next time he knows he will need to do what worked last time to get what he wants this time.

Holy guacamole I only thought I was losing my mind because of what we are currently doing. This is going to be a definitive marker of it being completely gone. This whole process is going to be difficult for sure but completely worth it not only for Silas, but for our sanity as well. When the time comes for us to start ‘extinction’ I will be as prepared as possible with my headphones and something to maintain my sanity.

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About Tomonica

Hi, I'm Silas' mom and this blog is simply to document our journey with autism. There will be topics such as how our journey began, what certain aspects of autism are, therapies, successes and failures, as well as sometimes just my craziness. I hope you enjoy reading this and perhaps learn something useful.

Posted on May 20, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Grandma Donna

    Lots of hugs to all of you. Wish you were closer so we could help. At least give you some much needed breaks. Much love!

  2. Gee I think I can use this behavior modification at work!! Still so incredibly proud of all you are doing and willing to stay the course for Silas! He is one lucky little man to be loved so!! Love you!!

  3. I have seen this little man in action…..I have also seen you in action….I think you can and will outlast him if you are determined to get him on the right course. Eventually he will come to terms with not getting everything he wants when he wants….but haven’t we all? Just takes a little longer for him….
    Stay true to your word and I know he will come around to ya’ll’s way of thinking….Love to all!

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