Decreasing Self-Stimulatory Behavior

  • Situation

    I have a student in my Multi-Disability Classroom who insists on flapping pieces of paper – he won’t go anywhere without the paper – if he doesn’t have a piece he will search in the trash cans or use his work papers. He is integrated into some classrooms and just uses the class papers to flap. What can I do to extinguish this behavior?

  • Summary

    Provide the paper to the student (maybe a choice of two) – decide on the size and very slowly each day decrease the size of the paper. By the end of a few weeks the paper may be very small and the student may be satisfied just holding something small in his hand. Simultaneously provide opportunities for items that provide a similar input during designated times such as ribbon wands or whistle on a lanyard during gym class or recess.

  • Definition

    Decreasing Self-Stimulatory Behavior in this instance refers to shaping the behavior by decreasing the size of the item so the behavior is not interfering with activities AND simultaneously replacing the behavior/item with a more appropriate item that provides the same input during scheduled times of the day.

  • Quick Facts

    • Child's Age: 3-5, 6-10, 11-13
    • Planning Effort: Low
    • Difficulty Level: Easy
  • Pre-requisites

    Different sizes of the preferred item (in this instance, paper) other objects that provide similar input (ribbon, etc.)

  • Process

    1. Decide on the size of a piece of paper for the student.
    2. Provide the paper for the student during times he may always want to hold, shake, or use.
    3. Each day slowly cut the paper into a smaller piece so it is not noticeable to the student.
    4. By the end of a few weeks the student may be fine with a small piece of the paper – BUT simultaneously:
    • Provide substitute item during scheduled times that can provide similar input such as rainbow ribbon wands that can be scheduled during a break time, time in the gym, or recess.
  • Documents and Related Resources



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