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Extinction (EXT)

Extinction refers to an applied behavior analysis (ABA) procedure whereby a behavior that was formerly reinforced is no longer reinforced.


Extinction can occur when teachers withhold identified reinforcers for a target behavior that was previously reinforced. This strategy is used to reduce or eliminate a challenging behavior. The extinction procedure relies on accurately identifying the function of the behavior and the consequences, or responses to the target behavior, which may be reinforcing its occurrence.

The consequence that is believed to reinforce the occurrence of the target challenging behavior is removed or withdrawn, resulting in a decrease of the target behavior. An initial increase in the challenging behavior (often called an “extinction burst”) is common before the behavior is eventually extinguished. Extinction should not be used in isolation. Other practices that are often used in combination with extinction include differential reinforcement and functional behavior assessment.

EXT meets evidence-based criteria with 11 single-case design studies. According to the evidence-based studies, this intervention has been effective for preschoolers (3–5 years) to high school-age learners (15–18 years) with ASD. EXT can be used effectively to address communication, behavior, school-readiness, and adaptive skills.

Brief Adapted from

Fleury, V. P. (2013). . Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina, Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, The National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Sullivan, L., & Bogin, J. (2010). Sacramento, CA: University of California at Davis School of Medicine, M.I.N.D. Institute, The National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Research Summary

Ages (yrs) Skills Settings Outcome
2-54 years Behavior, social School, clinic, home, residential facility
*The information found in the Research Summary table is updated yearly following a literature review of new research and this age range reflects information from this review.

Outcomes:     Evidence-based     Emerging     No evidence     Comprehensive

Steps for Implementation


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