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 their artwork instead of the walls in your home.

    • Create or buy a dry erase board with compatible markers and keep it in a spot where your child often draws or plays in your home or in school. You may also like to make a bin with drawing/writing tools and paper.
    • Prepare a simple behavior story about writing on a dry erase board or paper instead of the wall and read this story with your child every day (even a few times per day).
    • Create note cards that say “No drawing on walls – draw on your board” and tape them up on the walls in the rooms where your child likes to draw.
    • Show your child the dry erase board and encourage them to draw on it. Praise them when they are using the dry erase board to reinforce that this is a positive behavior.
    • Show your child the a “special” bin of paper and drawing tools you made and where it will be when they want to draw. Praise your child when they use the drawing bin instead of coloring on the walls.
    • Try to interrupt your child and redirect them to the dry erase board if you catch them making a move to draw on the walls. If your child does draw on the wall, hand them the note card that says “no drawing on the walls – draw on your board” and show them over to the dry erase board without any other talking. Once they begin to draw on the dry erase board, give your child positive attention and reinforcement for drawing in the correct place.

    Remember to enthusiastically praise and reward them when they use the board and paper to draw. It is important that the praise they gets when they draw on the white board or paper is very specific so that they know exactly what they did “right”.

    For example, instead of “nice job!” say “I love your picture on the paper!” along with a high five. This differentially reinforces them for drawing on appropriate surfaces. When you are first teaching to stop drawing on the walls it will take some effort and time. As your child receives your positive attention and rewards for drawing on the board and/or paper, they will 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

    This resource was authored by Watson Institute Special Education Consultant, Lisa Plastino, M.Ed.

    If you have questions or concerns about the Watson Institute’s use of this information, please contact us.