What strategies can educators implement to prevent or address challenging behaviors?
Page 5: High-Probability Requests
High-probability (or high-p) requests is a strategy that teachers can use to encourage students to complete an undesired task or activity. This involves giving a student a sequence of high-p requests (i.e., easy requests that a student is very likely to follow), immediately followed by a low-probability or low-p request (i.e., a request a student infrequently or never follows). By asking a student to complete a series of desired tasks, the teacher builds behavioral momentum, which increases the likelihood that the student will complete the undesired task. In other words, students are more likely to follow teacher directives if they are already engaged in a pattern of following directions. This strategy is particularly beneficial for students who engage in challenging behaviors to escape from or avoid a task or activity.
- High-p requests can be used to support academic, social, and communication outcomes.
(Common, Bross, Oakes, Cantwell, Lane, & Germer, 2019)
- High-p requests are effective for students with a range of disabilities, including developmental disabilities, autism spectrum disorder, and emotional and behavioral disorders.
(Cowan, Abel, & Candel, 2017; Davis, Reichle, & Southard, 2000)
- High-p requests are more effective when combined with positive reinforcement.
(Lipschultz & Wilder, 2017)
Using the Strategy
High-p requests should be used with individual students and should be appropriate for the student’s age, developmental level, and skill sets. To help educators prevent or address challenging behavior, the table below describes the steps to implement high-p requests and provides an example.
Consider an instructional or behavioral request that a student infrequently (i.e., less than 40% of the time) or never follows.
The teacher identifies an undesired task that leads to Josiah’s challenging behavior.
Challenging behavior: Josiah typically refuses to come to the carpet during group instruction when prompted.
Low-p request: Sit on carpet for science instruction
Identify several (e.g., five to seven) high-probability requests—those that the student follows 80% to 100% of the time—that relate to the context of the low-p request.
The teacher identifies several requests that Josiah is likely to follow.
Deliver high-p requests
Deliver low-p request
The teacher delivers the following requests. As soon as Josiah completes one task, the teacher immediately delivers the next request.
In addition to the three steps listed above, the five actions below can be helpful when implementing this practice.
Make sure each high-p request in the sequence relates directly to the low-p request. For example, a high-p request like “Choose your favorite color highlighter” might be appropriate to help a student start the momentum necessary to identify text features in informational texts (low-p request). However, this same high-p request might not be appropriate to encourage a student to write a narrative story (low-p request).
All requests, whether high-p or low-p, must be requests that students are capable of completing independently. Because of this, the lists of high-p and low-p requests that teachers create will vary from student to student. Consider creating a list of potential high-p requests to avoid repeating the same high-p sequence.
Once a student has begun to follow a low-p request more often, the teacher should begin to reduce the number of high-p requests in the sequence. For example, if the teacher starts by issuing four high-p requests before the low-p request, she should reduce that over time until no high-p request is required.
For some students, verbal praise in response to the completion of high-p requests may not be sufficient. Instead, these students may need to be given a tangible reinforcer (e.g., a sticker, preferred item, token), which should be faded over time.
Consider asking students what types of praise or reinforcement they find motivating.
Listen as Kathleen Lane explains how to implement a high-p request strategy and shares an example of when she implemented this strategy with a student (time: 2:04).
Kathleen Lynne Lane, PhD, BCBA-D, CF-L1
Professor, Department of Special Education
Associate Vice Chancellor for Research
University of Kansas
Although this strategy works as a Tier 1 support, it is also effective as a Tier 2 support when working with students who consistently display challenging behaviors.
To make sure you are using this strategy with fidelity, download this high-p requests implementation checklist.
To view our IRIS Fundamental Skill Sheet on high-probability requests, click on the title below.