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Q&A: Hitting Behaviors?


How do you address behaviors like hitting? I have implemented a sensory diet for one family, and they have not been able to be consistent for many reasons. However, I used your format for the behaviors along with the sensory diet, and there is no change. I have tried many things and the behavior has not changed. Can you offer any other suggestions?


This is a behavior that sometimes responds to sensory strategies, but I would say the majority of the time there is something else going on. Typically, the client has figured out that hitting is a way to get something—maybe attention, keeping others away from him, getting “his way,” etc. Your job is to figure out what purpose this behavior is serving. Use the ABC method of behavioral analysis to guide you:

A = Antecedent—keep track of what usually happens right before he hits
B= Behavior—in this case, hitting is the behavior.
C = Consequence—what happens after he hits? Do people give in to his
demands? Do people steer clear of him? Does he get restrained?

It is likely that whatever the consequence is, he likes it for some reason and that is why you’re having a hard time reducing the behavior. So if you discover that he gets a lot of attention after hitting someone, try “planned ignoring” instead. Or if he likes to be restrained, try isolation instead (everyone else could leave the room instead of trying to remove him, which may lead to more hitting). I know this process is easier said than done. Sometimes it is indeed very difficult to figure out what is motivating a certain behavior. I hope this helps though!

Best Wishes,