Positive Behaviour Management Strategies for ASD Students
Virginia Willems-Rossman
May, 2014
General ABA Proactive Classroom Strategies:
 Create pro-social ways to attain desired outcomes – replacement language/behaviours and capitalization on pro-social behaviours and coping mechanisms
o Outlined in the OSR, or IEP
 The goal is that students view school as a positive environment, and not a place that produces anxiety
Clear Rules, Instructions and Expectations:
 No more than five Classroom Rules are displayed
 Classroom Rules are talked about and decided on by the entire class at the beginning of the school year
 Predictability through a visible classroom schedule is increased in the classroom environment
 Expectations for activities, or routines are explained in simple and concise language, without ambiguity
 Instructions to carry out a behaviour (sit down, line up, stop doing …..) are precise, direct, and issued before the behaviour, not after the fact
Capitalize on Success and Praise
 Use behaviour specific praise more often than ambiguous praise
o Ex. Behaviour specific – “I like how you sat down the first time I asked.” / ambiguous – good job or thumbs up
 Use praise of positive behaviour of other children to draw the attention of the target children
o Ex. “I like how Tina is standing in line. Nice job Tina! Let’s all stand like Tina. ”
 Give a lot of verbal praise to those who need it the most
Activity Space
 Create a variety of activity areas in your classroom that encourage working in a small group to increase social skills. These small groups will set-up students for success.
 Ensure that you also have area(s) in the classroom where students can work if they need time alone
Motivational Support
 Establish a predictable and consistent contingency between expectation and reward. It is important for students with ASD and other developmental delays to know how they will earn their reinforcement. If not, the reinforcement system will lose meaning and will not be a motivator anymore.
o Expectations for tokens are to be written out/clearly defined at the beginning of the activity and should remain consistent throughout.
 Ex. 2 questions = 1 star, OR sit in circle for 2 minutes = 1 star
 Build tolerance through establishing a warm and inviting environment for students. Be flexible so that you are ready to make changes to the learning environment, or activity when tolerance levels increase, or decrease.
 Develop a system with the token economy to give students a break and/or a reward BEFORE they lose their self-esteem and “give-up”.
o Expectations should be built up…Start low and build through reinforcement
o E.g. If they consistently start to lose interest and a behaviour is triggered five minutes into an activity, reinforce them every two minutes to build behavioural momentum
 Reinforcement can be in the form of tokens, of modified questions (easier) or by earning 5 starts to gain reward (independent computer time, sticker, parent approved snack, choice of activity etc.)
 Developmentally appropriate expectations
o Keep rewards for tricky transition times, for most students with ASD do not have the capacity to wait until the end of the day/week for their reward
o An activity schedule also helps to build independence and self-advocacy
Priming Strategies – Picture Schedule
 Give notice ahead of time about upcoming activities throughout his day that may be challenging, e.g. a fire alarm, or class trip
 This can be added to the daily schedule. “Tomorrow, we will be going on a class trip….Today, we are going on a class trip, after lunch. This may be difficult, but don’t worry, I will help you. When we come back, it will be time to go home.”
 Priming can happen every day to give plenty of notice of upcoming transitions
 Encourage each classroom teacher to have a visible (picture) schedule for these students. This will remind them of what is next and will also serve to continue to prime them for upcoming challenges, and add ways to work through them
High Probability Questions and tasks
 To increase the likelihood of meeting curriculum expectations, questions and tasks with a high probability of a positive success rate can be introduced
 An example would be to include easier questions intermittently throughout harder, or target questions on worksheets, on blackboard work, etc. These questions can be from the unit before, or even the grade before.
o Ex. 10+4 = ___, 11+2 = ____, 1+2 = ____, 4+4 = ___, 10+8 =___ etc.
 Other examples could be asking them to perform a physical, or social developing activity before completing a difficult task e.g. handing out paper to other students, picking up a dropped pencil
 This may increase positive behavioural momentum
Instructional Modifications
 Differentiated instruction – helping the students gain access to curriculums in multiple ways according to their learning style.
Environmental Modifications
 Keep the desks of students with ASD away from items of distraction, or other items in the environment that will trigger behaviours e.g. windows, or doors
 Try different seating arrangements – rows, groups with other peers and see if you notice a difference in learning and attention
Token Economy System
o The larger reward should always be chosen by the student and reassessed throughout the day to ensure it is still the more preferred – Never assume that they like the same thing they liked last week as this may result in noncompliance because it has lost its allure
o Tokens are a form of praise. Expectations to earn tokens should be laid out clearly for the child. Every child’s expectations will be different
o Praise should be dense – every 3-5 minutes the child has an opportunity to earn a token – therefore they should be earning the big reward 1-2 times per hour
o With success, it is possible to increase the amount of tokens required to earn the big reward
o Verbal praise can be phased in, instead of using tokens. This will introduce a real-world feeling because not everyone they meet will be able to give them tokens, however, most people will be able to give them verbal praise if they have done something well
Picture Cards
Picture cards can be used in two main ways.
1. Instead of using words – as a visual reminder
2. In combination with your words
 Remember that they are only used as a pro-active tool. They are never used negatively, or as a punishment.
First-Then Boards
First-Then-Boards can be used in lots of situations. Pictures, or sticky notes can be added to boards. It’s great if the student is able to attach activities to their own board. Consistency is very important when using a First-Then-Board. The following are examples of when to use a First-Then-Board:
 When the student is to do something they do not want to do
o Show them – FIRST 5 minutes of homework, THEN 2 minutes of IPad
 When you are teaching about sharing
o FIRST ask for permission, THEN go and see the toy/game
 In transition
o First washroom, THEN free play
Carlaw, Andrea, “Positive Behavioural Management Strategies”, Toronto, Canada, October, 2013


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