Extinction-Child-YellingWhat is Extinction?

Extinction is a treatment strategy in which a previously reinforced behavior is no longer reinforced causing the behavior to no longer occur. For example, if a child tantrums, and always gets the iPad to calm him down, the iPad is most likely reinforcing the tantrum behavior. An extinction procedure would include discontinuing the presentation of the iPad during/immediately after a tantrum.

Other things to keep in mind when using an extinction procedure:

  • When putting a behavior on extinction, always find an alternate appropriate behavior to teach, so the child can still access the desired reinforcing aspect of the inappropriate behavior.
  • When a behavior is put on extinction, the behavior will increase before it decreases. This is known as an “extinction burst.” An extinction burst is a good clue that you have correctly targeted the reinforcing aspect of the behavior you are trying to discontinue.

What is an example of Extinction?

A child has a history of saying inappropriate words and almost always receives attention from an adult such as a gasp or being told “no” (reinforcement) immediately after. In order to put this behavior on extinction, no attention should be given after the behavior occurs. Pick an alternative behavior to increase, such as saying appropriate words instead of inappropriate words and reinforce that with attention.

Example of an Extinction Burst

A child has a history of negotiating with his parents to stay up later when they say it is time to go to bed. For the past year, that has worked. Now, when parents decided that when they say it is time for bed, the child is going to bed. The first time they discontinue negotiating bedtime, the child gets more upset, starts crying, and has a tantrum. Over the next few times, the same tantrum behaviors continues but continually gets better. After a week, the child goes to bed when he is told, “it’s bedtime.”

Client Reviews (2)

My son has been receiving ABA at NSPT4Kids for a year and a half. The staff is extremely knowledgeable, caring, and understanding. They have been great working with our insurance company. My son has completely opened up. He now seeks his older sister to play – something he never did for the first four and a half years of his life. He looks at me when he talks to me. We have conversations. It is amazing. I never would have thought ABA could do this. I am so thankful for NSPT4Kids!


Our son has been in the ABA program at North Shore for almost two years now. The gains his therapists have made with him have been without a shadow of a doubt wonderful and remarkable. Everything they do in session, we always reinforce at home to help him continue his gains. The ABA therapists are always quick to update the kids individual program to continue to challenge the kids, even if they are having a rough time that session. We are grateful of what North Shore has done for our son both past, present and moving into the future. As we get ready to send our son into Kindergarten, the North Shore ABA team gets a lot of credit helping to make this milestone happen for him. I highly recommend North Shore for all of their services.

Tom J