How Do I Ignore Inappropriate Behavior?!


By: Elanor Neff, M.S., BCBA

                Your child just dumped his entire plate of dinner onto the floor, looks at you, and starts laughing. You told your child to put his shoes on and instead he bolts from you laughing and screaming. Periodically your daughter lets out a very loud scream, looks at you, then screams again. You asked a trusted professional what you should do and they responded with “just ignore the behavior”. Have you tried it? Or maybe this strategy doesn’t make any sense…you feel that there needs to be a consequence for the “bad” stuff. In this blog post I am going to offer a few strategies on how to appropriately ignore the inappropriate behavior. Before going on though, I want to offer up a full disclosure statement: It is important that if your child is engaging in intense problem behavior that causes harm to themselves or others, it would be best to consult with a professional prior to implementing these strategies

1.       First thing is first: Stay calm! When the food hits the ground, when the scream pierces your ears, when the frustration builds as they take off running away from you, do everything you can to remain calm. Refrain from screaming, refrain from (as we call it in my house) the “disapproving sigh”. Keep a neutral face, your body language should convey that nothing at all just happened. This will be hard, really really hard. But remember, if you want to effectively change your child’s behavior you first must change yours.

2.       Refrain from verbal reprimands. It is tempting to yell “no” or “I can’t believe you did that!”. There is a chance the verbal reprimand is serving as a form of attention (even if it is negative attention, they are still getting a rise out of you).

3.       Follow through on all tasks: This is where ignoring behavior becomes tricky. You should look at each behavior that your child is doing (not just the inappropriate ones). So, for example, you told your child to put their shoes on and instead they ran from you screaming. The behaviors at play are: A) Running B) Screaming C) Putting on shoes. If you stand back and ignore all 3 of those behaviors than this will only create more problems. Instead, ignore the behaviors A & B (running and screaming) but don’t ignore behavior C (putting on shoes). Follow steps 1 and 2 above, prompt your child to put their shoes on.

4.       Once the inappropriate behavior has stopped, reengage with your child. For example, you have picked the food up from the floor and they have resorted back to finishing their meal, give lots of praise and attention. If they were finished with their meal, place the food back in front of them (keep your hand on the plate of food) and prompt them to request to be done. It is important to provide your attention back to them once they are engaging in appropriate behavior.


The above are just a few strategies CSERV clinicians like myself practice and teach caregivers how to implement themselves throughout our telehealth sessions.  For more information on how to obtain ABA therapy through videoconferencing please contact us at or checkout our website at

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Finding The Ideal ABA Therapist

Oftentimes caregivers are recommended or prescribed ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) for their child and are encouraged to begin immediately.  From there caregivers start their process of finding ABA providers and understanding how to find the right Behavior Analyst.  ABA therapy is the most widely used and research-proven therapy for autism. Choosing the right therapist is an important step in their treatment. There are a number of factors to consider to find the perfect therapist for your child.


Ensuring that a clinician has the proper certification or licensure is paramount and often the first step to verify their completion of extensive coursework and internship hours. There are varying levels of certification depending on the type of degree that the clinician holds.  Also, depending on which state the family lives, a clinician may require licensure to practice within that state.  In order to verify if a clinician is certified the public is encouraged to look up their credentials within the Behavioral Analysts Certification Board database.

Education and Experience

Not all Behavior Analysts are equal meaning that clinician’s come from varying backgrounds with extensive experience in some areas and not others.  For example, master’s level clinicians (BCBA’s) must acquire a total of 1500 hours of field experience prior to obtaining their certification.  Upon receiving their certification and practicing independently some clinicians may remain serving the same population (e.g., children with developmental disabilities) or some may practice in other applied areas within Behavior Analysis. 

Also, should a clinician have an experience in delivering services to children with developmental disabilities, some may be more proficient in working with children who are non-verbal, adolescents who are experiencing social skills deficits or adults living in group homes that are focusing on self-care skills.  There are many areas in which a clinician may work so it is imperative for the caregiver to inquire what experience they possess and in what area. 

Location of Practice and Availability

Clinicians practice within community settings, homes, or clinics.  The field of ABA has grown exponentially within the past six years but there continues to be lack of clinicians in both the United States and abroad. With the increase in the prevalence of autism, it is common for there to be wait lists that can stretch out as long as one year or more to see a BCBA.

That is the chief reason why CSERV was created. To allow those with autism access to the highest quality ABA therapy that can help them grow and develop. By using our unique online delivery system, we enhance access to certified BCBA therapists without a waitlist. This is achieved because the flexibility of the online platform allows us greater flexibility in our hours of operation, and we are not limited to certain geographic regions. As long as you have an internet connection, you can start ABA therapy!

Another benefit of our online therapy is that it allows the greatest opportunity for parents to be involved in their child’s therapy, including after 5 p.m. and on the weekends. When parents are involved in their child’s therapy, learning is enhanced because the techniques being taught to your child are able to be reinforced at home- the most important environment for your child.

The Supporting Role Of Extended Family When A Loved One Has Autism

When family members are trained on how to effectively manage autism symptoms the benefits are not only seen in the loved one who has autism, but also extends to other members of the family. These benefits include reduced stress and increased bonding.

Receiving a diagnosis of autism can be unsettling for the whole family, but don’t let it make you feel helpless. There are lots of things parents and other family members can do to support everyone involved.

 Help Apply Therapy Skills To Daily Life

To increase the effectiveness of therapy, the skills must be reinforced at home and in different environments. When parents and caregivers implement therapy techniques, they provide consistency and reinforce learning. Helping your family members practice what they have learned on how to create the best environment for their child is integral.  In addition, participating in therapy sessions with your family members can be as beneficial for you as it is for the child’s parents. You will feel more confident in the techniques and the therapist can instruct you on different ways to reinforce the skills with your child at home and elsewhere.

Our online therapy services make this easier for family members by offering the flexibility to participate in therapy from any location. Our families love that they don’t have to travel to see a therapist and gain back valuable time to spend with their child.

Connect by Play

Playtime is a great time to connect.  Take time to watch your loved one enjoy their playtime on their own- and don’t feel as though you have to interrupt them while watching.  Create notes based off your observations and then begin to slowly engage them through their play.  Go at their pace and pair yourself as a reinforcer. 

Offer/ Take Support

Anyone that cares for a child will tell you there are days that leave you feeling overwhelmed, stressed and drained of all your energy.  This is especially true for parents of children with autism. It is essential that caregivers receive support. For extended family members, offering time for the parents to take a break can be very helpful, even if only for a few hours.