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Extinction Burst

EKG = Extinction Burst?? It's what it looked like to me!


On Tuesday the behavioral therapist that facilitates D’s social skills group met with all of us (the parents.)  She gave a very quick presentation on behaviors of children on the autism spectrum and possible causes.  She also discussed that while attempting to change our child’s negative behavior we may experience what is called an “extinction burst”, this basically means the child’s tantrum will be at its highest for a period of time while the parent is trying to modify the negative behavior.  She even has a fancy graph that resembles an EKG to accompany this explanation *sarcastic tone completely intended*.  While she is explaining this my mind starts to wander.  Does she really understand what this means for me and probably  a lot of the parents in the room??    I mean I’m sure she means well, but she has not seen the monster that my smiling happy playgroup D is all too capable of turning into !

 But I told myself  alright let’s go with it……

So yesterday on the way out of his pre-school D picked up a stick and wanted to bring it in the car…I told him that this was fine but that  “the rule is” he absolutely cannot put the stick in his mouth. 

I gave him some banana chips and told him to use those if he needed something crunchy in his mouth (oral sensory issues), but that if he put that stick in his mouth I was going to take it away.  He said “ok mommy” and we were off to Target to get some stuff for the house.  I pull into the Target parking lot and I hear…

“sorry mommy”


I look back and there he is with a mouth full of stick!!! 

I feel bad, I know he really tried, but I told him that if he put it in his mouth I was going to take it away. Honestly all I really wanted to do was give him another chance,but I have to stick to my guns…right???…this is what the therapists say to do and nothing else has been working… so i say…

“D please give me the stick”


***wondering*** can’t I just let him keep the stick???…no Shivon..stay with it…

“D…mommy said that if you put the stick in your mouth that I was going to take it away, give me the stick”


I took, or more like wrestled the stick out of his hand….


I will spare you the rest,but it was loud…it was angry…it was what they call an “Extinction Burst”…..and it was just awful..

The next step was to physically turn my back until he had calmed down enough to talk. 

*back turned*

I looked around as people stared at us in the very busy Target parking lot and prayed for strength not to give in and that this tantrum would subside so that we could go in to Target and get what we needed. I had just finished working a very very long day and just wanted to go home…..I get lost in my thoughts and after about five minutes pass, there is finally silence….

“Mommy I’m wiping my tears”

cautiously, in my best  stern mommy voice i ask (back still turned)….

“Are you ready to go into Target now??”

“Yes mommy I am ready to get treats for the Pathways”

Thank GOD the rest of our trip was filled with fun and silliness, but I promise you that seemed like the longest five minutes of my life!


About sonidoinquieto

I hate writing bios *bio pending*

4 responses »

  1. hi im a therapist working with kids on the spectrum. and i also have a special ed kid myself. my question is why would you let him have the stick in the frst place? that way if you needed to go to the “burst” it wouldnt be in the target parking lot.

    • I see your point, I probably could have avoided the Target meltdown if i never gave him the stick, but I think that I would have just been trading it for a meltdown in front of his school over the stick. I was and still am a novice at this whole autism thing as it has only been a year and a half. We also have yet to go through aba therapy. What is your suggestion for situations like this??

  2. Ah, the Target parking lot melt-downs – so terrible. But not as terrible as the Target in-store melt-downs! Ugh…

    Congrats on sticking to your guns. The non-reinforcing negative behavior thing is painful in the moment, but as you’ve probably noticed by now, It totally works in the long run. (Mostly ;))

  3. Awwww…i love your strenghth!!! again i must say that you are a great mom!


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