Consequence or Contingency Maps are a cognitive-behavioural strategy for helping students understand the consequences of their behaviour. Additionally, they provide a visual representation of the expected behaviour and the unexpected behaviour, and show the consequences associated with both behaviours. Many students with ASD experience challenges with communication and implementing visuals provides students with concrete, static information about behavioural expectations and routines. Limiting the amount of talking, especially when the student is already agitated, can be a successful way of de-escalating situations.
There are a variety of ways to use a Consequence or Contingency Map. I will provide an example for ‘hitting when mad’.
Define the Behavioural Expectations: Define both the expected and the unexpected behaviours.
Create the visual: I like to colour code my visuals, showing the ‘Green Path’ (expected) and ‘Red Path’ (unexpected). The number of boxes, the type of visual input (drawings or written words), and the amount of information will vary for each student. The most critical information is the target behaviour/routine, defining the behaviour, and depicting the reward. I’ve found the most successful visuals are created collaboratively between the student and me. This increases buy-in and the student can take more ownership by deciding how to word certain phrases or choosing which pictures to include. Additionally, the student may have valuable insight, such as the calm-down strategy that words well for them, or which reward they would like to work towards.
Teach: After you have created the visual, the critical part is to teach your student how to use it! As I’ve mentioned above, creating the visual collaboratively with your student will increase buy-in and will make teaching its use much easier. Set aside a time to review the visual at least once a day, especially when it is first being introduced. Ensure the visual is always easily accessible to the student. Make multiple copies so that other adults who work with that student also have access to it.
Reinforce: If the student engages in the expected behaviour, provide them with their reward! This is a critical step for increasing the expected behaviour and decreasing the unexpected. Asking student input about what they want their reward to be will also increase the likelihood they will engage in the expected behaviour.
Fade Reinforcement: Take data on the changes of frequency, intensity, duration, etc. of the behaviour. Plan to fade the reinforcement over time. You do not need to fade the visual! We all use visual supports on a regular basis!