Stimulus Fading

What are your thoughts on tracing? Like it? Love it even? Maybe you haven’t really given much thought about tracing. We can trace pictures, letters, we can even trace really big stuff like the inner rings on a tree. I am sure someone, somewhere has needed to do that… for science of course! I have walked into countless classrooms, and watched young kids trace their names, and trace their personal information. I have seen all age ranges, and all skill ranges tracing. But what I don’t see, is the gradual fading of that original stimulus that the learner is supposed to know and be able to write, I am guessing independently. I believe we don’t see this, because people don’t know about stimulus fading! As defined by Cooper, Heron and Heward (2014) fading is “a procedure for transferring stimulus control in which features of an antecedent stimulus (e.g. shape, size, position, color) controlling a behavior are gradually changed to a new stimulus while maintaining the current behavior; stimulus features can be faded in (enhanced) or faded out (reduced)” (p. 7).

For the purposes of this post, let’s focus on fading out a stimulus, and let’s choose a common (and important) one such as writing your name. When looking at an assignment, the top of the page typically has the word name, followed by a line behind it. We know that signals where to write your name, and evokes the behavior of doing just that! But this is something our learners need to be explicitly taught. They also need to be taught how to form the letters of their name, and practice making the necessary strokes to complete the task. We begin by having the student name in a dark color, and thick lines or dots to make it clear and noticeable. The student begins to trace their name with this heavy visual support, and continues to practice this particular skill. After the student is making consistent marks along with the dots or lines, we begin in to reduce this stimulus. This can be done in a few ways; we can make the lines less thick. We can make the dots a little farther apart. We can light the color of the lines to a darker grey. The important thing to remember is that, it still needs to resemble the student’s name, just less pronounced. The ultimate goal with this type of stimulus fading is to gradually reduce it over time, to evoke writing the students name independently. By doing this process gradually, we take away the need for the visual support of the student’s name, and then the original stimulus of name and line will evoke the student writing their name in that location.

Stimulus fading is a wonderful opportunity to promote generalization of skills. This practice will absolutely help to increase the independence of our students, and help them to participate in their daily lives!

Cooper, J. O., Heron, T. E., & Heward, W. L. (2014). Applied behavior analysis (pp. 492-493). Edinburgh gate: Pearson educational international.

Fields, L. (2017). Transfer of discriminative control during stimulus fading conducted without reinforcement. Learning & Behavior, 46(1), 79-88. doi:10.3758/s13420-017-0294-x

Markham, V. A., Giles, A. F., Roderique-Davies, G., Adshead, V., Tamiaki, G., & May, R. J. (2020). Applications of within-stimulus errorless learning methods for teaching discrimination skills to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities: A systematic review. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 97, 103521. doi:10.1016/j.ridd.2019.103521


Bedtime Pass

Do you have a toddler that holds you hostage at bedtime? Do they still happen to sleep in your bed? The struggle to get kids to go to bed is real, we have all heard stories, and I am sure we have all counseled others on this problem. I would like to introduce you to the Bedtime Pass. Dr. Patrick Friman, and colleagues, have given us this great procedure to help with this oh-so-common issue!

The Bedtime Pass is an extinction-based procedure that allows the child to access their parents at one point after the bedtime routine has been finished, but not after that. They also can only use this pass once a night. The procedure goes a little like this; your child is given one bedtime pass. This could be something the decorate themselves, or something that you make for them. It just must be something that they have ownership of as well, make it fun! Then we teach the procedure; 1. Put the child in to bed, 2. Provide the card that can be exchanged for one “free” trip out of the room, or parent visit in the room to satisfy an acceptable request, 3. Give up that pass, 4. Ignore all additional attempts to seek your attention (Moore et al., 2006).

The last one (#4) is where it gets a little tricky because we need to be prepared for something called the extinction burst. This is where we can say that things will likely get worse, before they get better. There might be crying, screaming, and maybe some behaviors that are emotional in nature. But let me say one more time, it may get worse before it gets better! This can be the hardest part of the Bedtime Pass procedure, but we are going to stay strong. The research shows a significant decrease in bedtime resistance in three areas; calling out and crying, leaving the room, and time to quiet (Moore et al., 2006).

The Bedtime Pass is a great way to set limits and expectations to help kids be successful during bedtime routine. It also increases the independence of our kids, and allows them to have access to parents when they need it, versus when they want it!

Moore, B., Friman, P., Fruzzetti, A., & MacAleese, K. (2006). Brief Report: Evaluating the bedtime pass program for child resistance to bedtime—A randomized, controlled trial. Journal of Pediatric Society, 32(3), 283-287. https:// doi:10.1093/jpepsy/jsl025

Friman, P., Poling, A. (1995). Making life easier with effort: Basic findings and applied research on response effort. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 28, 583-590. https:// 10.1901/jaba.1995.28-583

Differential Reinforcement of Low Rates of Responding (DRL)

Have you ever had your child, or any child really, ask you 100 questions in rapid fire succession? Have you ever had a student who raises their hand to answer every question in the lesson, and then becomes frustrated when they haven’t been called on each time? Most of us are not alone in answering these questions with a yes, because these are pretty common situations to find ourselves in. Enter, differential reinforcement of low rates of responding (DRL). Simply put; do this, but not so much, or not so often!

DRL has three different procedure components; Full-Session DRL, Interval DRL, and Spaced-Responding DRL. One of the best components of DRL is the fact that the reinforcement is not delivered based on the nonexistence of the behavior, but delivered when the behavior is below a set criterion. Let’s look at Full-Session DRL in a little more depth. In this specific procedure, reinforcement will be delivered at the end of the session, so long as the behavior occurred at or below a specified number of responses. For instance, a student leaves their seat without permission quite a lot and that starts to distract others in the room. After collecting data to see how many times the student gets of out of their seat, we determine an appropriate amount that would be allowed during a specified time frame. Using a Full-Session DRL procedure, the specified reinforcer would only be delivered if the student got out of his/her seat at the specified amount, or lower. If the out of seat behavior happened more than the specified amount, then reinforcement would be withheld!

This procedure would be great to use for behaviors that do not need to occur at zero rates, or simply need to lower the rate at which with they occurring.

Cooper, J. O., Heron, T. E., & Heward, W. L. (2014). Applied behavior analysis (pp. 492-493). Edinburgh gate: Pearson educational international.