What is it?
This intervention is a simple and crafty approach to aid teachers (or any adult monitors) in behavior management techniques for children. This intervention utilizes a token economy principle, based on the idea that the desired behavior is reinforced with a reward (Intervention Central, 2009).
Who is it for?
This intervention has the potential to be effective for all students with a behavior in need of modification and, more specifically, it may yield very positive results for children with executive function deficits, such as students diagnosed with ADHD or mood disorders. Executive functioning serves as the “president” of the brain. It is made up of a set of skills that make sure things get done, not just planned (Morin, 2015). Children with impairments in executive functioning could benefit from a token economy as it promotes positive behaviors through the use of tangible rewards.
This intervention would not be ideal for children who have very frequent occurrence of a behavior that needs to be terminated. For example, if a student normally has six or more occurrences of a behavior every ten minutes versus every thirty, then this intervention may not be most suitable for them.
How Does it Work?
The preparation for this intervention is quite simple and only includes the following two steps, which makes it convenient for adults who already have too much on their plates:
1. The materials needed for this intervention are rubber bands and a self-monitoring chart (Intervention Central, 2009). I have included the chart that is recommended, however feel free to modify this chart to suit the classroom environment or make it more suitable for the adult and student. As long as there are boxes to put points in for every thirty-minute period, it will work.
2. The adult and the student privately discuss the disruptive behavior(s) (e.g., screaming, talking out, acting inappropriately, etc.) that the adult would like to help the student reduce. Specifics are very important here. The adult and child must both discuss the behavior the adult hopes to reduce and give the student an example of the behavior they are hoping to reduce as well as the plan on how the behavior will be lessened. The student must receive clear and specific examples of the behavior(s) (Intervention Central, 2009). The adult and the student will then discuss and develop a reward system. Together, the adult and student will decide how many points the student needs in order to receive a prize (Intervention Central, 2009). Finally, the adult will introduce the process of the rubber band intervention and make sure the student understands the whole process (Intervention Central, 2009).
To Implement: The Five-Step Plan (Intervention Central, 2009)
Step One: On the first day of the monitoring period, the adult will put six rubber bands around one of his or her wrists to begin the half-hour monitoring period. Each time the adult must verbally remind or prompt the student about the behavior being monitored they must transfer one rubber band to the other wrist.
Step Two: After the thirty-minute period the adult will count the number of rubber bands remaining on the original wrist. If one or more rubber bands remain the student earns a point for that period.
Step Three: At the end of each period the adult will briefly approach the student and review his or her performance and add a point to the chart, if they have earned it. The chart can be laminated on their desk, placed on the wall at the front of the room, or placed anywhere that is visible and convenient for the adult.
Step Four: When the student earns the previously agreed upon number of points, they may redeem the points.
Step Five: For the final step, once the adult is able to see an improvement in the behavior (more rubber bands remaining on the original wrist) they can slowly begin to reduce the number of rubber bands on their wrist at the beginning of each monitoring period until only one or two remain. At that point, stopping or reducing the intervention can be considered. Please keep in mind that you are unlikely to see consistent change in behavior in the first week or two. It takes time to effect lasting change! Step five may be best to start roughly 4-6 weeks after the beginning of the intervention.
Adaptions for Best Practice:
This intervention has the potential to be adapted from its original form. The following are several best-practice examples:
1. Instead of assigning the student one point when the adult has one or more rubber bands on their wrist, assign them one point per rubber band. By allowing the student(s) this option, students will likely be more enticed to improve their behavior in order to receive more points.
2. Try switching the intervention from focusing on negative behaviors and removing rubber bands for each negative action to adding a rubber band for each positive behavior. This adaption is similar to the strengths based perspective of social work. Rather than pointing out negative behaviors the adult will focus on all of the student’s positive actions and give praise for a behavior they are trying to reinforce.
3. Try changing it to use for multiple students. According to Intervention Central (2009), to monitor multiple students the only adjustment needed would be to use different colored rubber bands for each student being monitored. Therefore, if you were to monitor three students in the same thirty-minute period you could have six normal tan colored rubber bands, six pink rubber bands, and six blue rubber bands.
4. To increase self-monitoring in the child as well as modifying a behavior, have the child change the rubber bands him or herself. For example, the child would move put six rubber bands on his or her wrist and move a rubber band to the opposite hand when he or she receives a prompt to correct behavior (or, if using the strengths-based adaptation described in #2 above, child would move rubber band when he or she receives a behavior-specific praise statement).
Strengths and Potential Challenges
- It’s easy to prepare and implement.
- It is not costly, as it requires minimal materials.
- It can be adapted for many age groups and students.
- This intervention is not suggested for children with high frequency behaviors.
- Having a token economy with only tangible rewards could have a negative effect on the child, therefore, providing a non-tangible reward in addition to a tangible reward would be a great consideration (e.g., a break for escape function, time with a preferred adult for attention functions, etc.).
The Rubber-Band Intervention is a helpful behavioral intervention technique that helps reinforce positive behaviors in the classroom. If you have any questions please feel free to comment and/or contact us!