Watch TV ABA Program

Program Name: Watching TV

Download a PDF copy of this page


Prerequisite Skills:

  1. Sitting in a chair
  2. Sitting with hands down
  3. Experience with attending to stimuli
  4. Capability to sit in a chair without vocalizing for at least 10 seconds


Techniques Utilized:

  1. Redirection
  2. Reinforcement from behind


Teaching Procedure:

  1. Assess the amount of time the learner can sit watching TV appropriately.
    1.  Appropriate Watching: sitting quietly, hands on lap, remaining in chair/couch, absence of any physical or vocal stereotype, focus/attention to TV screen
  2. Establish the first target interval time for the learner to watch TV.
    1. If the learner can sit for 2 minutes engaged in watching, but goes off-task at 2 ½  minutes, your first target time should be 2 minutes.
    2.  If the learner is unable to engage in watching TV for any significant amount of time, see the target list below for the first targeted interval. 
  3. Prepare your reinforcers.
    1. Gather 2-3 edibles that the learner finds rewarding.
    2. Gather 2-3 videos/DVDs that the learner can choose from.
    3. Establish a strong reinforcer that will be delivered after watching TV for the target interval.
  4. Allow your learner to choose his edible reinforcer, what he wants to watch, and what he wants to earn for watching TV appropriately.
    1. Choices often promote compliance, by allowing the learner to be part of the decision-making process.
    2. If the learner is unable to make a choice, rotate edibles/videos and note whether specific stimuli cause an increase in compliance or attention.  These are most likely your most reinforcing items!
  5. Arrange a timer and a chair in front of a TV. 
  6. Have the learner choose an edible to earn, a video to watch and a strong reinforcer to give when TV watching is complete.
  7. Set the timer for the target interval and state, “Watch TV”. 
  8. Reinforce correct responding about every 10 seconds by delivering an edible to the learner, contingent upon appropriate TV watching.  Reinforce from behind the learner, out  of the learner’s view.  Limit all verbal interaction. 
    As the learner demonstrates increased attending and interest in watching TV, gradually reinforce less frequently, e.g., every 20 seconds; every 30 seconds; every 60 seconds, etc.
  9. Redirect any incorrect responding with interruption/guidance.
    1. Lack of attending
      1. Use gestures (pointing to TV).
      2. Use Headphones.
      3. Obtain videos with increased visual and auditory stimulation.
    2. Physical Stereotype
      1. Physical redirection to place hands on lap/fold hands/sit on hands/put hands in pockets
      2. Gestural/physical redirection to keep feet flat on floor
  10.  When the interval is complete, terminate TV watching and immediately deliver the pre-selected reinforcer.
  11. Record + or – for correct or incorrect responding, respectively.  A response is correct only if the learner engaged appropriately for the entire interval.  Conduct at least 3 trials/day (more for shorter intervals, less for longer intervals).  After three consecutive days of at least 80% correct responding, increase the target time interval.   


Target Intervals

  1. Watch TV appropriately for 30 seconds.
  2. Watch TV appropriately for 60 seconds.
  3. Watch TV appropriately for 90 seconds.
  4. Watch TV appropriately for 120 seconds.
  5. Watch TV appropriately for 2 minutes, 30 seconds.
  6. Watch TV appropriately for 3 minutes.
  7. Watch TV appropriately for 5 minutes.
  8. Watch TV appropriately for 7 minutes.
  9. Watch TV appropriately for 10 minutes.
  10. Watch TV appropriately for 15 minutes.
  11. Watch TV appropriately for 20 minutes.
  12. Watch TV appropriately for 30 minutes.
  13. Watch TV for increased amounts of time.  


Sample Data Sheet

Date Target Instructor Video/Edible Data
2/2/08 1 minute Monica Bugs/Cheerios + + - + +  = 80%
2/3/08 1 minute Marybeth Trains/Cheerios + + +        = 100%
2/4/08 1 minute Marybeth Trains/Cheerios + + + + + = 100%
2/5/08 1 minute Monica Toons/Pretzels + + + +    = 100%
2/6/08 1 minute, 30 seconds Monica Toons/Cheerios + - +        = 67%



Helpful Hints:

  • If TV watching is continuously unpleasant for the learner or the learner continues to show a lack of interest, explore different types of videos.
  • If the learner becomes fixated on one video and will not expand his interests willingly, use the preferred video as a reinforcer for watching less-preferred videos.
  • Vary the video.  A learner may appear noncompliant or problematic when the issue is simply boredom or lack of interest.
  • Pair TV watching with reinforcing activities, e.g., spending time with Mommy or Daddy, eating popcorn, snuggling with a favorite blanket or toy.


Back to Top