Reposted with permission from How To ABA
All kids have trouble waiting for things that they want. They even have trouble waiting in line at the grocery store. Waiting is a huge skill. So once our learners have mastered some early instructions, like come here or sit down, then we typically start working on the skill of responding to waiting. Today’s topic is all about how to teach children to wait.
When my children were young and they started learning how to ride their bikes, they felt a huge sense of independence. I stayed way behind them while they rode their bikes so fast that they were about 20-30 feet in front of me. I needed them to stop at the curb because they were too young to cross the street safely. So something that we worked on was my kids listening to me saying “wait” from 20 feet behind them. They knew to wait for me and stop at the curb before crossing.
How to Teach a Child with Autism to Wait
Waiting is a huge safety skill and a huge life skill. You don’t always get what you want right away. Being able to wait a little bit of time to get what you want is really important. We also want our learners to stay safe and not run and dart away from adults. So we developed a program about teaching kids to respond to the verbal instruction of “wait,” with the response of waiting quietly.
We want to start really small and with an amount of time that the student can be successful doing. Don’t expect a student to wait for 5 or 10 minutes when they’re used to not waiting at all. Start by having a preferred item that you know that this student wants and then support them in being able to wait.
Possibly initially say the word “wait” and also hold up your hands and count aloud with the student. Starting with three seconds is a great amount of time and it’s highly supported. Be there with them and help them wait. If they could do that successfully, then you can fade the hands up, and then eventually not count with them. Do all of this while sticking with three seconds.
Once you fade the signal, you fade the counting, and you’re just saying “wait,” then you would start to slowly increase the amount of time that the student is expected to wait before accessing the preferred item.
Waiting Program for an Early Learner
Here is an example of the program that we would use for a very early learner. This is a learner who has really only started mastering some basic one-step instructions. Start by teaching the highly supported “wait” with your hands up and counting. You can make it really fun. Sometimes we’ll play red light green light or have a race and tell the student to stop and wait. It doesn’t have to be done just at the table.
Do 10 trials of the first teaching step and graph it. They can be in a row or they can be spread out over time. They can also be done naturally. As soon as they are able to show mastery (80% over two consecutive sessions) you increase the amount of time the learner waits and so on.
Waiting Program for an Older Student
A waiting program for an older student who needs to learn to wait before accessing something that they really, really want isn’t as highly supported.
The first step would be to have the learner sit and wait for something that they want. We’d start with five seconds before giving them the reinforcement. As soon as they’re successful for two intervals in a row over two days, then we increase the time.
Go at the pace of the student and if the student shows that 10 seconds is too long, go back to five seconds.
Check out the How To ABA website for additional resources and free downloads.
About the Authors
Shayna Gaunt, MA, BCBA | With over 20 years in the field of ABA, Shayna is a master program developer. She has a unique knack for finding the practical application of ABA to real-life so that the interventions are doable and successful!
Shayna has been practicing Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) since 1997. In 2005, after graduating with a Masters Degree in ABA from the University of Nevada Reno (UNR), she was one of the first in Ontario, Canada to obtain her BCBA. She is the Founder and Executive Director of Kid Mechanix, Inc. in Toronto, Canada, where she met Shira Karpel.
Shayna also has international experience, providing clinical expertise and training workshops to clients in Canada, United States, Costa Rica, England, Egypt and Qatar.
Because of her extensive training in a wide variety of interventions over the years, Shayna has a knack for developing unique, practical programs that teach across operants. She seriously thinks in data sheets!!!!
Shayna’s super-power is her ability to explain complex ABA principles in practical, relatable terms. She is a master program-developer and most of what you see in The Bx Resource is her ABA-mind put down on paper. As a member of The Bx Resource, you get the privilege of learning from her and leveraging all that ABA knowledge for your own practice!
Shira Karpel, M.ED, BCBA | As a former teacher, Shira is passionate about spreading the benefits of ABA to more children. She envisions a world where ABA is the go-to, accepted intervention in classrooms and homes everywhere! She is the co-founder of How to ABA which was started to create a community where all BCBAs and ABA professionals can get support and resources so that clients can get the best treatment possible.
Shira has a Masters in Special Education and then went on to pursue her BCBA. With extensive supervision and training (ahem, thanks Shayna!!), she has been working in the field of ABA since 2011. Together with Shayna, they trained, and taught many therapists, clients, and parents and collected a massive bank of ABA programs and resources. One day, the light bulb went off and Shira said, “We should be sharing all of this!” Hence, How to ABA was born!
Her passion is in creating positive, comprehensive learning environments for all students. She loves that with her knowledge in ABA, she can now support teachers in their classrooms. She is the Director of Behavioural Services at a private school in Toronto and is loving getting to make a difference in the lives of children and families daily. She is passionate about making the principles of ABA practical and doable and relevant to every child in any situation.