Tip of the Week: Sticking to Your Intervention

Recently I received a phone call from Barbara, the mother of a 14-year-old boy who was displaying inappropriate behaviors on the train during his commute to school. We had put an intervention in place that had been successful for two months. But Barbara reported that it wasn’t working as well anymore, and the inappropriate behaviors were increasing in both intensity and frequency.

Barbara was concerned and fearful that her son’s behaviors could put him in danger. As we began discussing each incident in detail, it became clear that Barbara and her son’s other caretakers had unintentionally stopped following the intervention. A strong intervention will have multiple components, so straying from the intervention is quite common for both parents and teachers (including myself). It’s important to try to address it before it happens to help ensure long term success for your learner.

There are two simple strategies you can implement to help everyone stick to your intervention.

    1. Close up of woman writing in plannerWrite it down. Some parents I work with choose to print out the steps for their child’s intervention and place them near their computer or in their wallet so they see it on a regular basis. Having access to a reminder of the steps can be an essential part to ensuring success. For example, one of the steps in Barbara’s son’s intervention was access to his favorite comic books with new comic books available every 7-10 days. Barbara put a recurring reminder in her phone that was scheduled to appear every 7 days. Having the visual reminder helped Barbara and her husband stay on schedule with replacing the comic books in their son’s travel backpack, as well as stay on track with all the steps involved in the intervention.


  1. Check in on a scheduled basis. Barbara and I have set up monthly conference calls for the two of us and any other adults that supervise her son on the train. Each call lasts about 30 minutes and focuses specifically on maintaining the intervention, promoting independence, and systematically reducing the supports her son requires. Depending upon the behavior, you may need to check in more or less frequently.

Barbara’s son has now gone eight months without experiencing any increases in the inappropriate behaviors he once displayed. Because Barbara has instituted the two strategies above, we have also been able to systematically reduce the number of prompts and the frequency of reinforcement so that her son is coming closer and closer to independence.

**Name and identifying characteristics have been changed to protect the identities of my clients.

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