Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Relationship between the Use of Timeout and Academic Achievement

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Relationship between the Use of Timeout and Academic Achievement

Article excerpt

Relationship Between the Use of Timeout and Academic Achievement

Timeout from positive reinforcement, or simply "timeout," has been defined as a procedure in which "access to the sources of reinforcement is removed for a particular time period contingent upon the emission of a response" (Sulzer-Azaroff & Mayer, 1977, p.281) or as a "period of time in a less reinforcing environment made contingent on behavior" (Brantner & Doherty, 1983, p. 93). Reviews of the literaturte (Brantner & Doherty, 1983; Harris, 1985; MacDonough & Forehand, 1973) have concluded that the procedure has demonstrated effectiveness with a number of different populations and behaviors. The procedure appears to be widely used in the management of severely disruptive behavior: Zabel (1986) found that 70% of teachers of students with behavioral disorders report using some form of timeout in their classroom.

Based on a review of the response-contingent, timeout literature as applied in classroom settings, Rutherford and Nelson (1982) proposed six categories of timeout. All involve withdrawal of social attention or other positive reinforcers, contingent on the student's maladaptive or disruptive behavior.

1. Planned ignoring removes social attention from the student (i.e., teacher turning away) for a given length of time.

2. Planned ignoring plus restraint timeout involves the addition of physical restraint to the contingent removal of adult attention.

3. Contingent observation entails removing the child to the periphery of an activity, where the child can watch but not participate for a set period of time.

4. Reduction of response maintenance stimuli timeout involves the systematic enrichment of the "timein" environment with reinforcing stimuli, then withholding access to these, contingent upon misbehavior.

5. Exclusion timeout involves removing the student from the reinforcing timein environment for a specified period of time.

6. Seclusion timeout involves placing the student in a specially designed room or cubicle separate from the classroom, for a short period of time.

Several parameters can mediate the effects of timeout (Brantner & Doherty, 1983; Harris, 1985; MacDonough & Forehand, 1973), including location of the timeout area, duration of the timeout period, explanations for the timeout, presence or absence of a warning, the type of administration (verbal vs. physical), the presence of a discriminative signal, and the schedule on which timeout is delivered. Timeout administered in an area removed from the classroom environment appears to be somewhat more effective in controlling behavior than timeout in the classroom (Brantner & Doherty, 1983). Harris (1985) suggested that, in most cases, timeouts of 5-10 minutes (min) in duration appear sufficient to control behavior, although the parameters governing appropriate duration of timeout appear to be complex. Finally, the importance of enriching the "timein" environment, to increase the discrepancy between the classroom and timeout, has been widely noted (Brantner & Doherty, 1983; Forehand & MacDonough, 1975; Nelson & Rutherford, 1983; Solnick, Rincover, & Peterson, 1977).

Legal and ethical concerns have been raised regarding the potential for the abuse of timeout, or the possibility of deleterious side effects. Both escape and aggression may occur in response to the application of timeout or other negative consequences (Azrin & Holz, 1966). Behavior managers may be negatively reinforced by the effectiveness of timeout and may increase the frequency or duration of timeouts (Nelson & Rutherford, 1983; Wood & Braaten, 1983). Abuses of seclusion timeout have been documented, including extended duration of isolation or timeout in a bare room without light (Anderson & King, 1974). In response to such concerns, ethical and legal guidelines have been recommended (Gast & Nelson, 1977; May et al. …

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