All children will push the boundaries at some point! But if these behaviours hurt others, or hamper the child’s ability to interact with peers, consequences must be applied. Self-regulation is the goal and can be achieved when consistent outcomes are applied.
The time out technique can be used as one aspect of an effective behavioural intervention but it’s important to consider the physical and developmental stage of the child. The technique has to be adapted to each child, particularly when considering students with special needs.
Some Tips for Time Out
- Time Out is not an appropriate consequence in all situations. If a child is being aggressive during play time, then time out would be a natural outcome for that particular behaviour. Note, though, whether the purpose of the behaviour was to leave the situation. Remember that all behaviour is trying to tell you something. Time out may not work with some children with Autism, for example, who are acting up to try to avoid the stressful social situation.
2. Remember that the location doesn’t matter – it’s the break from your attention that is the consequence. So if you’re in the supermarket, then that’s where the time out happens.
- Use a consistent phrase such as “We are not allowed to throw; time out”. Use it every time. Everyone who works with the child should use the same phrase. Alternatively, use a communication board with visual cues. Keep your ‘mantra’ short and to the point for the child with special needs who may have language delays. And long lectures just delay the time between the behaviour and the time out.
- Link time out to a specific behaviour – it’s tempting, but it should not be used for that moment at the end of day when everyone is tired and just needs time away from each other.
- As soon as the time out is over go back to praise for positive behaviour.
- One minute for every year of age? This is the widely accepted guideline but may be too long for the child with special needs. You know your child! Do what feels right.
Jiselle Simpson is Director of Chilled Kids, an educational support service specialising in creating programs for children with additional learning or behavioural needs. For more information on how Chilled Kids can help your child visit our website at www.chilledkids.com, phone 0408 716 350 or email firstname.lastname@example.org