Posted in Autism, Behavior/ ABA, Feeding, Personal Hygiene, Toileting

Blog #51~Pushing My Buttons

Blog #51~Pushing My Buttons

Pushing the microwave and phone intercom buttons, running water faucets full blast, dumping out coffee mugs…. You name it Nick does it. I try to ignore the behavior and not give him any attention which is what he desires.  This tactic isn’t really working.  Now what?  Enter Toni Van Laarhoven, Associate Professor at Northern Illinois University.  She spoke at the NADS Behavior Retreat a few weekends ago.  Before she did her presentation on using video modeling to teach behaviors she spent some time talking about the struggles that we as parents were going through. The NADS (National Down Syndrome Association) retreat families all have children with Down syndrome and autism.  I sat up in my chair, she had my full attention. I began jotting notes in my journal frantically as she spoke.  I am always looking for solutions, she had me at DRO.  

It’s been a long time since my days of taking psychology classes at The University of Texas.

Longhorn logo

I remember the basics but this technique I have never tried with Nick.  What is DRO?  It stands for Differential Reinforcement of Other Behavior, and it is the delivery of reinforcement. This reinforcement procedure is designed to reduce a given behavior by increasing alternative behavior while withholding reinforcement for the unwanted response.

 I did a little research and have to give credit to Toni Van Laarhoven and these two resources: 

Cooper, J.O., Heron, T.E., & Heward, W.L. (2007). Applied Behavior Analysis (Second Edition). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

Sulzer-Azaroff, B. & Mayer G.R. (1991). Behavior Analysis for Lasting Change. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson

Here is my take on this technique and how I might apply it to help with some of Nick’s behaviors.  DRO is a specific schedule of reinforcement that is used to decrease the rate of behaviors that are inappropriate.  It is time-dependent, so rather than responding to a behavior after the fact you reinforce the time that the child is NOT engaging in the inappropriate behavior. In essence, you catch them being good. 🙂

angel pic

Advantages of using DRO: 

* Decreases inappropriate behaviors rapidly

* Positive approach to change inappropriate behaviors

* Used to reduce a wide variety of behaviors

* Easy to implement

Guidelines for implementing a DRO Program: 

* Define the target behavior.

* Determine highly preferred items or activities to be used as reinforcement.

* Collect baseline data of current behavior, how often does this occur?

* Set initial DRO intervals just below the average period of time that the child  emits the inappropriate behavior. (5, 10, 15 minutes?)

* Explain rules to earn reinforcement.  Child will earn reinforcement if they do not engage in the target behavior during each interval.

*DRO may be more effective when combined reinforcing replacement behaviors.

*Use visual supports (tokens, picture of reward)

*At the end of the time period, provide the child with the reward if the target  behavior was not emitted.

* If the child engages in the target behavior, inform them that there will be no reward at that time.

* Start time period and continue sequence above.

*Implement daily and consistently.

* As the student makes progress, increase the time period.

Here is what I picture with Nick.  The target behavior will be pushing the phone intercom button.  I will do some data keeping on how often he does this.  In addition, I will see what is occurring in the environment that might trigger him doing this and make a note in the behavior journal.  Once a pattern is established I will set the interval schedule.  Next will be determining what motivates Nick.  Normally he is rewarded with a Sprite when he does his work bins well.  However I am going to use a different reward specific to this DRO project.  Nick enjoys watching Funny Cats on You Tube and the laptop is right by the phone.  Right now I am thinking this might work.  I like the idea of doing a visual token system for Nick.  Toni mentioned making a puzzle of the highly preferred item.  For each successful interval you put a piece in the puzzle.  Once the puzzle is filled in then Nick would get his reward  🙂

you tube cat pic

The DRO technique could be used in home and in the classroom as well.  One instance might be a child who interrupts the teacher during classroom instruction. The end result is to have the child learn to exercise more self control.  This may sound like a lot of work.  The data keeping and setting of the interval schedule can be tedious.  Flashback to the toilet training days….. this is when I use to put Nick on the throne every 30 minutes and do a dry pants check.  I also kept data on how often he took in food and drinks. Over time I saw a pattern of two things.  First,  was how long he could stay dry and clean.  Secondly I figured out what amount of time it took him to digest what he ate and drank thus needing to use the bathroom. This is how I habit trained him.  As he matured he was able to self-monitor toileting on his own. Put the time and effort on the front end (so to speak 😉 ) and there will be a payoff.  That’s what is in my noggin this week….. Stay tuned…..

~Teresa 🙂


Teresa is the Author of "A New Course: A Mother's Journey Navigating Down Syndrome and Autism" and the mother of two boys. Her youngest son, Nick is 29 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). Teresa's passion is helping others understand and navigate co-occurring Down syndrome and autism. She is a DS-ASD consultant, advocate, speaker, and author. Follow Nick's world on Facebook, Instagram & Pinterest @Down Syndrome With A Slice of Autism and on Twitter @tjunnerstall. For more information and media links, visit

4 thoughts on “Blog #51~Pushing My Buttons

  1. Your current report has confirmed helpful to me personally.
    It’s really educational and you are obviously very educated in this region.
    You have opened up my eye to various views on this specific topic with intriguing, notable and sound written content.

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