Hayden is 10 years old and he began using a Behavior Plan in first grade. His Behavior Plan/Chart has taken many forms over the last few years. In the early days we only put five steps on the chart so he could move up more quickly and be successful and praised for positive behavior. Now that he is very familiar with the chart we ask him to work harder to achieve his goals.
As Hayden developed more skills we have changed the chart. For example: his current plan encourages him to “ask” a friend a question in a social situation. There was a time when it simply encouraged him “talk” to a friend.
We also change the “rewards” depending on what currently motivates him and what is available. In the middle of winter we can’t go outside and swim or bounce on a snow covered trampoline. We don’t always have time to stop and go to the ice cream store. So, in the morning I look at the schedule and put the rewards on the chart that will work for that day.
Sometimes, we ask Hayden to arrange the order of the rewards on the chart to make sure it’s motivating for him. In the beginning before we asked him what he wanted, there was a day when he changed the rewards himself while the therapist wasn’t looking. If that isn’t proof that he buys into the system I don’t know what is! From time to time Hayden has gotten bored with some of the options, like playing tag with dad or getting an extra bedtime story read to him…so we try to keep the rewards fresh.
While we’ve been using this chart, our psychologist has documented that the number of negative behaviors Hayden has in a given time period has gone down, and likewise the number of positive interactions has gone up.
Behavior Chart ideas that work for us:
- Keep it simple at first
- Start by using numbers to reach the goal (kids on the spectrum often have an affinity for numbers)
- Make sure the child fully understands the chart and exactly how it works
- Over time, we switched the “numbers” to “pictures” of the rewards.
- We also eventually moved from 5 steps to 10 steps to reach the ultimate “prize”. (which in Hayden’s case is Legos)
- Let the child “stock” the reward closet. We let Hayden pick some of the rewards at the store to put in the prize closet. That’s also a great motivator.
- Not all prizes have to be material objects. We often will use swimming or a cooking activity as a motivator.
- Find pictures of the rewards on the internet to use on the chart. We find the visuals really connect with children on the spectrum.
- Make different charts for different situations. We have pre-printed goals for weekdays and weekends. The goals will change from school to camp to home.
- Be flexible. What motivates a child one week may change the next. We try to keep the chart fresh!
- Laminate the paper and pictures and use Velcro to move to move the various rewards.
Recently, we started including longer “weekly” rewards for big items like going to the beach for the weekend or a day trip to Hershey Park. He must maintain his behavior over the longer time period to get the larger reward.
I believe in order for the Behavior Plan to be successful the child has to fully understand the system. When Hayden was much younger he needed more immediate rewards for his good behavior. Now he can wait until the end of the day. The goal is to get him to the point where he is motivated on his own without the chart. In the grown-up world we call that a job and a paycheck!
-PJ Shafer Hayden’s dad