Individuals may use challenging behavior to escape, delay, avoid a situation, task or instruction, or other non-preferred activity. When an individual escapes a situation by exhibiting challenging behavior, they will continue that behavior since it was effective in getting them the results they want.
Example: Caregiver Rachel asks individual Sam to clean up. Sam says “no!” and hits Rachel. Rachel says, “Sam – you need to take a break and calm down.”
In this example, Sam did not want to clean up and did not have to clean up after he hit Rachel. Since hitting got Sam the results he wanted, he will likely hit again next time he is asked to clean up.
A common myth is that using Safety Care de-escalation strategies might allow escape (“getting away with it”). This would unintentionally reinforce and increase challenging behavior.
Safety Care uses 3 de-escalation strategies: Help, Prompt, and Wait. These strategies are designed to help the individual engage in calmer, safer behavior while maintaining everyone’s safety. This does not force the individual to immediately comply with staff directives. Instead, Safety Care teaches communication, instructs likely behaviors, and withholds reinforcement from challenging behavior. While these may temporarily reinforce less severe or intense forms of the challenging behavior, it prevents the situation from escalating to more dangerous and unsafe behavior.
The chart above displays potential outcomes from the example with Sam.
From both of these scenarios, Sam escapes cleaning up. In the first example, communication gets him a break. With the second example, more intense behavior gets him a break.
Geiger et al. (2010) provide additional recommendations when working with individuals who engage in challenging behavior maintained by escape:
“We can’t let them get away with it” may not be the safest or most practical option when dealing with challenging behavior. Safety Care recommends use of de-escalation strategies to effectively decrease and teach functional alternatives to challenging behavior.
For more information about Safety Care and de-escalation, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.