What is it?
Scheduled breaks are, as they sound, regularly scheduled breaks in activities that can help students engage in learning. Scheduled breaks can also assist some students to find relief from overwhelming sensory or social environments and may help to reduce stress or anxiety.
The literature on behaviour support also includes the more technical term 'non-contingent escape'. This involves providing students with a scheduled break, generally from non-preferred activities, that is based on time intervals, rather than being contingent on a particular behaviour or skill. There is some evidence that these scheduled breaks can help to decrease disruptive behaviours, especially when a behaviour is related to an escape function. By providing the scheduled breaks, the student has less need to use disruptive behaviours to escape from a non-preferred task.
For students in the classroom, the teacher may provide all students with scheduled breaks or individual students may be provided with short, frequent breaks on a timed scheduled. These breaks may consist of very short periods of unscheduled free time, or planned breaks that are longer and involve a preferred task or opportunity to leave the room (e.g. time in the book corner, running an errand).
How do I use it?
Teachers prepare a timer that will alert them that it is time for a break. These may be very frequent at first (e.g. 1 – 2 minutes) with the scheduled breaks gradually becoming slightly further apart. The aim is to provide the break without reference to the student's behaviour at the time (i.e., non-contingent).
Collecting data on disruptive or off task behaviour before and after the implementation of scheduled breaks may be of considerable benefit when determining the effectiveness of this strategy.
Appropriate for all ages with appropriate adjustments for age and cognitive skills.
Where can I learn more?