While engaging in repetitive or restrictive behaviors is characteristic of students diagnosed with autism, you may need to develop a plan to reduce the behaviors if they begin to interfere with learning. Read on for tips on how to reduce repetitive scripting and help students focus on learning.
WHAT IS REPETITIVE SCRIPTING?
Repetitive scripting can look different from student to student. Here are a few examples of behaviors that fall in this category:
- TV talk… or from a video, movie, etc.
- Repeating sounds or phrases
- Repeating a song or part of a song over and over
IS ALL SCRIPTING A PROBLEM?
Students engage in different levels of repetitive scripting and it doesn’t all need to be addressed by the teacher. If the scripting has reached the level that it is starting to interfere with learning or restrict the student’s ability to focus and participate, then it is time to address it.
If the student is busy scripting s/he…
- Can’t answer questions
- Isn’t hearing directions and instruction
- Is interfering with participation
- Reduces the likelihood that anyone else will try to interact which limits building social skills
- Makes integration and inclusion more challenging because it can be too disruptive for some classrooms
Repetitive scripting should be addressed if it is interfering with the student’s ability to learn and master skills.
LOOK FOR POSSIBLE CAUSES OF SCRIPTING
First, look at the possible causes or functions of the repetitive scripting. When we can determine the function or reason for the behavior, we are more successful in shaping the behavior.
Possible causes or functions may include…
- Attention seeking
- Gaining reinforcement
- Sensory issues
The first 3 functions above are the easiest to address because we can manipulate the environment, our reactions, etc. to see if there is an impact on the scripting. For example, if every time the student engages in scripting someone says “quiet” and rubs his back, then we can fade away the back rubs and attention to see if the scripting gets better or worse.
The hardest cause of repetitive scripting is sensory related because sensory-based behaviors are spurred on by something internal. We aren’t able to manipulate or change very many factors.
The second step is looking at the daily schedule and identifying times of the day when the student can and can’t engage in scripting. Expecting the student to stop the repetitive scripting altogether is an unreasonable expectation. This is to teach the student when it is appropriate and when it isn’t.
For example, the student shouldn’t be scripting during direct instruction but could do it during his free choice time or recess.
TARGET THE BEHAVIOR
Once you have considered the function or cause and chosen times of the day to target extinction, it’s time to begin to begin. Before you begin to address the behavior, take data to establish a baseline that you can use to see if your interventions are effective or not.
If the scripting is likely sensory related, work with the OT to see if there are alternative behaviors you could teach the student as a coping strategy to anxiety or sensory overload. Look at the environment and ways to reduce anxiety or sensory overload.
For example, you could add presets, visual supports, and timers to reduce some anxiety. If the student is getting overwhelmed by the busyness of the space, look for ways to reduce visual distractions. Visual clutter can make students very anxious or be very distracting.
Otherwise, it’s time to teach students when it is okay to engage in repetitive scripting and when it isn’t. Use social stories and visual supports to explain the new expectation for when it isn’t okay to script. Be clear about the consequences of engaging in the scripting during this time.
Use visuals, interactive books, choice boards, etc. to help students understand what the expectations are, alternative behaviors, and consequences.
For example, if the student engages in scripting during direct instruction, he won’t be able to access or earn his reinforcer afterward. Another option is he won’t be able to go to recess right away because he has to make up the work he missed while scripting.
Students are going to need a higher level of support and presets to remember the new expectations and consequences in order to be successful. As the data begins to reflect a positive change, gradually reduce the support. Remember to provide a high level of reinforcement in the beginning when the student is successful in controlling the scripting behavior.
Repetitive scripting behaviors can be very challenging to address, but we need to if the behavior is negatively affecting the student’s ability to learn and master new skills or engage in social opportunities with peers