Replacement Behavior for Writing on the Wall

  • Situation

    My 7 year old son, diagnosed with autism, is constantly writing or scratching on my walls with anything he can find, whether it’s a pen to write or one of his toys to scratch. He draws mostly bridges on my walls, but he does draw other things as well (things that interest him). I was thinking about painting a wall with dry erase paint and making it clear that it’s his wall to draw on to try to contain the drawling to one area. My questions are:  Could my idea work and if not how do I get him to stop drawing on my walls?

  • Summary

    Encourage drawing but with a replacement surface for his art work instead of the walls in your home.  Rather than painting a wall which may be hard to distinguish from the other walls in your house, try either making your own dry erase board by painting on a piece of plywood or buying a large ready made  board.  Place it in a spot where your son spends a lot time and/or near where he typically draws.  Write a behavior story explaining the rule about drawing only on the board or paper and not on a wall (See resources below).   Make small cards as visual reminders that show him “write on board or paper NOT on wall”.   Place the cards at his eye level on walls in each room where he has drawn on the walls.  Hang up his paper art work  on the walls as another visual reminder. (You may even have him draw a “Rule Chart” about not drawing on the walls and hang it up.)   Also,  make a “special” bin of paper and drawing tools that he may easily access.


    Remember to enthusiastically praise and reward him when he uses his board and paper to draw. It is important that the praise he gets when he draws on the white board or paper is very specific so that he knows exactly what he did “right”.  For example, instead of “nice job!” say “I love your picture on the paper!” along with a high five.  This differentially reinforces him for drawing on appropriate surfaces.  When you are first teaching him to stop drawing on the walls it will take some effort and time. If needed,  interrupt his drawing on the wall and redirect it to the board or paper. You may want to add a firm “no writing on wall” or “no” prior to redirection.   Praise him for using the board or paper.  As your son  receives your positive attention and rewards for drawing on  the board and/or  paper he be more likely to repeat that behavior, which of course is what you want!

  • Definition

    This strategy teaches a replacement behavior for drawing on the walls. It uses a behavior story to explain the new behavior and visual supports to remind the child about the rule. Interruption and redirection is a behavioral method used to prevent attention from being given to negative behavior and providing attention to positive replacement behaviors.

  • Quick Facts

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

    dry erase board or a piece of plywood and dry erase paint


    bin filled with writing and drawing tools, paper


    several pictures that have been drawn on paper, not walls


    simple behavior story about where to draw rather than drawing on walls

  • Process

    1. Make or buy a dry erase board and hang it in a spot where your son often draws or plays in your house.  Buy special markers to go with the board.

    2. Make a bin with drawing/writing tools and paper.

    3. Write a simple behavior story(see sample in Related Resources) about writing on a dry erase board or paper instead of the wall.

    4. Make cards(see sample in Related Resources) that show “No drawing on walls – Draw on the  board” and tape  them on the walls in the  rooms where your son likes to draw.

    5. Read the social story a couple of  times each day until your son is able to follow the rule of not drawing on the walls.

    6. Show your son the dry erase board.  Let him draw on it and praise him.

    7. Show your son the drawing bin you made for him and where it will be when he wants to draw.

    8. Try your best to watch your child closely the first few days and “catch” him before he draws on the walls.  Use interruption and redirection and have  him to draw on the board.

    9. If he draws on the wall, hand him the visual support, tell him “no drawing on the wall, go to the board”. Help him to the board without any other talking. Once he begins to draw on the board give him positive attention for drawing in the right place. Strongly reinforce his using the replacement behavior.

    10. 1As time progresses and he is able to be more independent, you will be able to fade back your support. However, remember to still provide him with positive reinforcement when he uses his board.

  • Documents and Related Resources

    Behavior Story I like to draw, word doc


    Behavior Story I like to draw, pdf


    Visual support No drawing on Walls, Draw on board, word doc.


    Visual Support No drawing on Walls, Draw on board, pdf


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