Break Card Activity
Description: When children are using inappropriate behaviors to try to avoid or escape something, it is our job to help teach them proper ways to communicate those needs without hurting others or becoming disruptive. One easy way to do this is with the use of a break card. Use something simple like the “x”s above to represent “I need a break”. Explain to the child that he can use this to get out of something (social stories work great for the teaching part of this). Place these at strategic places near the activities that the child often tries to get out of. When the child starts to act up, direct him to grab a break card and hand it to a teacher. If the child is verbal, he can also say “I need a break”. Plan a safe spot that the child can take a “break” that is not very fun or exciting but that gets him out of the activity that he is trying to avoid. IMMEDIATELY allow the child to take a break and guide him over to the break spot. Tell him he can come back when he’s ready. The “immediately” part is important. The child won’t want to use this tool if it doesn’t work. Now, that doesn’t mean that he will always and forever be allowed to get out of anything he wants. This is just for now until his default becomes using a break card instead of resorting to challenging behaviors.
Once the child is routinely using the break card independently, you can start making him wait a bit to get his break. Start by having the teacher say “You can have a break but you have to wait just a second. <Slight pause> Great waiting, now you can take your break!”. That pause should only be a second or two. We just want him to see that waiting isn’t that terrible. Gradually, that time can increase and eventually you can move up to telling the child that he has to complete one more task or repetition before he can have his break. Keep working your way up to a reasonable about of time that he continues to participate before taking his break. You can learn more about using break cards by downloading our resource here: