Replacement Behavior Tools: Perseverative Behaviors

  • Situation

    I teach high school math to life skills students. I have one student who continually calls out phrases in a perseverative manner. She also intermittently claps her hands. The other students in the class get upset and yell for her to “cut it out”. She is a good and caring student.  However, her behaviors interfere with the class and result in negative interactions with her peers. Additionally, she frequently asks for adult help or to have her work checked. All of these behaviors can be exhausting for the adults in the room by the end of the period.  Any suggestions?

  • Summary

    The perseverative behaviors described may be providing sensory input. The perseverative talk may also be the result of the student’s difficulty determining a different  response or one that is perceived as the correct response. It does appear that  the student is receiving attention from her peers and although it is negative attention it may serve to maintain the behaviors you want to change.  Providing the student with substitute or replacement behaviors will teach more appropriate responses. A behavior story that increases an understanding of peer perspective while teaching replacement behaviors for the talking and clapping may be helpful. When the student demonstrates the new replacement behaviors provide reinforcement with  positive attention.  It is also mentioned that the student seeks attention from adults and is in need of  increasing the skills needed to promote independence.  Remember to provide  attention when you see the replacement behaviors being preformed. Begin to use visual cues on the student’s  papers as a method for “chunking” the work into small, doable pieces. This is done by writing on the paper or on a post it note attached to the paper phrases such as,  “When you get to this answer, come and show me”  or “Raise your hand” after every few items. As time goes on you can increase the number of work responses before you write the cue. In summary, provide the student  with a Behavior Story, teach replacement behaviors, increase attention for the replacement behaviors, and implement visual cueing and chunking to increase independence.

  • Definition

    Behavior stories provide a student with an understanding of his/her perspective and the perspective of others related to behaviors of concern. Replacement behaviors are appropriate behaviors that provide the same input and purpose of the behavior of concern. Visual supports such as ‘chunking’ are strategies that visually breaks work tasks into smaller sections and may help work to be perceived as easier, creates a structured schedule of reinforcement and increases independence during academic work. Providing positive attention for replacement behaviors increases the probability of success.

  • Quick Facts

    • Child's Age: 6-10, 11-13, 14-17, 18+
    • Planning Effort: Moderate
    • Difficulty Level: Easy
  • Pre-requisites

    Ability for student to read and understand a behavior story

    Behavior story to address behaviors of concern

  • Process

    1. Create a behavior story that includes the behavior of concern and how the behavior may make the student’s peers feel; include replacement behaviors for the ‘behavior of concern’.

    2. If possible include any Special Interest character into the story to increase motivation and the possibility of success.

    3. If the student is older allow the story to be read independently, however, be available to answer any questions or demonstrate the replacement behaviors. Because some behaviors provide sensory input, include  replacement behaviors that also  provide sensory input if needed.

    4. Whenever the student displays the replacement behaviors provide immediate attention. If the student engages in any of the behaviors of concern, give your attention to other students engaging in appropriate behaviors.

    5. Pro-actively write visual cues on any academic worksheets (or use post it notes). Begin after two problems with the written statement: “When you get here, come and get me.” Or “Raise your hand when you finish this problem.” Write these cues throughout the paper after a specified number of work tasks. This strategy will promote independence and provide a systematic schedule of positive reinforcement for the student.

    6. See the attached behavior story as an example of the behaviors of concern and the replacement behaviors.

  • Documents and Related Resources

    Taylor Says… (Behavior Story – word document)


    Example of chunking (Word document – image)


    Visual Chunking: Math (Related answer on this site)


    Green Dot to Red Dot: Visual Chunking to Teach Classwork Independence (Related answer on this site)


    Carol Gray Social Stories (website resource)


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