Waiting Protocol

Posted by Katie Justice on 10/23/2020 7:00:00 AM

Returning back to our typical routine after 5 months has been quite an adjustment for all of us.   It is likely true that instant gratification was much more easily accessible when we were quarantined at home during this time. Difficulty with waiting for preferred items/activities has been a common concern that has been shared. Many of our learners have been able to have access to their preferred items freely, therefore returning back to the school setting and requiring work to be completed first can be a difficult transition.  Below is an example of a waiting protocol.  This example is for an early learner who is unable to wait for more than a few seconds before engaging in maladaptive behaviors, but this can also be utilized with learners who have a higher tolerance with waiting.  The time can be adjusted based on their ability to maintain before engaging in those maladaptive behaviors.

  1. Staff can utilize a timer or counting in your head.
  2. Best to practice waiting with highly preferred items/activities.
  3. Assess their current level of waiting for specific items/activities by requiring them to wait and see how long they can before engaging in maladaptive behaviors.
  4. To promote successful waiting, reinforce by giving the item/activity just before they typically engage in maladaptive behavior to gain access to the item.  For example, if they can successfully wait 1 minute before engaging in maladaptive behavior, give them access to the item every 45 seconds to promote appropriate waiting. If they can successfully wait 10 seconds, give access to the item every 5-7 seconds.
  5. Once they have consistently waited without engaging in maladaptive behavior for 3 consecutive trials, slowly increase the amount of time they need to wait before gaining access to the item/activity.
  6. Provide behavior specific demands and praise.  For example, when removing the item, say things such as, “Let’s wait!”, and when returning the item, “Great job, waiting!”
  7. This can be practiced with a wait visual and/or signs. 
  8. If they immediately engage in maladaptive behaviors and cannot successfully wait for any length of time, utilize a visual timer for 3-5 seconds.  Once the timer goes off, immediately provide access to the item/activity, despite engaging in maladaptive behaviors. 
  9. Repeat without increasing the interval until they are able to sit for that time without engaging in maladaptive behaviors.  The goal is that they will learn that once they hear the timer they will receive the item/activity, and that it is not based off of the behavior they are engaging in at the time.  
  10. Once they are able to wait appropriately, begin the process as outlined above to increase the interval he waits.
  11. Depending on the student’s ability to generalize, it might be necessary to start at the beginning smaller intervals for each new item/activity they are learning how to wait for.  Other’s might be able to generalize the concept and not need different teaching trials for different items/activities. 

Katie Justice  
Katie Justice, BCBA