Extinction in ABA
Extinction refers to a procedure used in Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) in which reinforcement that is provided for problem behavior (often unintentionally) is discontinued in order to decrease or eliminate occurrences of these types of negative (or problem) behaviors.
While this procedure is most commonly used in children with Autism and Down Syndrome, it can also be used very successfully to address a broader array of problem behaviors, including those exhibited by individuals without developmental disabilities.
Extinction procedures often take three different forms depending upon the functions of the behavior (i.e. What is causing the behavior). One of the forms is to use extinction with behaviors maintained by positive reinforcement.
Example: Dannie tries to get mom’s attention by dropping her toy on the floor. Her mom smiles at Dannie, picks up the toy and hands it back to her. This series of actions reinforces Dannie’s negative behavior because she is getting the attention that she is seeking. As a result, she will continue to engage in this type of behavior in order to receive the positive reinforcement that her mom provides. To address this problem, Dannie’s mom should ignore Dannie when she drops the toy; if she consistently ignores this problem behavior, it is highly likely that Dannie will reduce engaging in this behavior as her actions no longer produce the effect that she is seeking.
Another form of this procedure is the extinction of behaviors maintained by negative reinforcement. This is commonly referred to as “escape extinction.”