The High-P Sequence and How to Change Behavior

Sometimes changing behavior can be quick, simple, and not require any tools- but rather a skill set. If you are looking for one of these to add to your toolbox, then you need to learn all about the high-p request sequence.

Based on ABA principles, it can help engage learned, combat refusal, and get students to attempt a difficult task, or a task that they may perceive as difficult. Even better, this is an evidence-based practice so you know that you are adding something to your classroom that has research behind it, and isn’t just a tiktok trend.

This trick doesn’t just have to be for students with a disability either- it works for any student whether they are neurotypical or neurodivergent!  

This is most successful with students who are trying to escape a task or demand. For example, you ask student to write their name on their paper and they rip up the paper or you ask a student to clean up the toys and they walk away. These are all behaviors that could easily benefit from this strategy.

Understanding Behavioral Momentum

Behavioral momentum, rooted in behavioral psychology, revolves around the idea that once behavior patterns are established, they are more likely to continue.

Like a ball in motion, behaviors that have a history of reinforcement tend to persist and influence future actions. This concept provides special education teachers with a powerful tool to encourage desired behaviors and minimize unwanted behaviors. 

So what does all that mean? Basically if you have a to-do list, it may be overwhelming to do the entire thing right? So most people start with the easier tasks first. This builds up what we call behavioral momentum.

Once you do a couple of easy tasks, it feels good to get them done and even cross them off your list.  Then, you are more willing and motivated to tackle the harder tasks on your list. This is the beauty of behavioral momentum! 

Now let’s move into how to use behavioral momentum with using a specific strategy called the high-p sequence. Although ABA is many times used with someone diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders, this can work with any student in your classroom!

The High P Sequence Explained

The High-P Sequence, or otherwise known as the high-probability request sequence, involves a strategic progression of tasks designed to set students up for success.

It is a great strategy to reduce problem behavior and allow students to demonstrate more of what they know. It can prevent a lot of escape behaviors from non-preferred tasks.  It can also be used with any and all students, whether they have a disability or not. This can also take a very short amount of time. Let’s get into it.

It consists of three key steps:

High-P or High Probability Request

 Begin with a series of requests that the student is likely to respond to successfully. These are tasks that the student can complete easily and confidently. This can vary from a variety of things such as motor movements like “touch you head,” or “give me a high five.” To personal questions “What is your name?” or “How old are you?” It can even be academic, if they are easy and the student is likely to respond, “What is 2+2?” or “What rhymes with ball?” 

A key point here is you do not want the students to be doing things that are not age appropriate. If you are working with a fifth grader, asking them to clap their hands may be too immature for them. You want to be sure you are matching requests appropriately as well.

These are called high-probability requests because the likelihood the child is going to respond is very high. This is important because you do not want to start with something that the student is going to end up refusing- they the strategy will simply not work.

Low-P Probability Request

Following the successful completion of the High-P requests (typically 3-5), you will then introduce a task that may be more challenging or less preferred for the student.

This is the behavior you are ultimately working to increase. It is important to note that if behavior does not occur, do not revert back to the high probability requests, because you do not want the student to learn if they engage in the problem behavior for a hard question, you give them an easier one.

This may be like “put your name on the paper.” If you have a student who immediately refuses to do work when given a worksheet- try the few high probability requests and then ask them to put their name on the paper- you will be surprised how easily they do it!

This does not have to be done just at the beginning of a lesson or session, it can be done throughout and should. You do not want to do it once and then revert back to only challenging requests.

The reinforcement

 After each request, whether it be the high or low probability request, students should get their reinforcement.  This will depend on student to student. Many times, social praise can work and it quick and easy to ensure that the behavioral momentum continues. 

Reinforcement does not have to be anything vast. This should be quick so the students continue with the behavioral momentum you are building up. If you are using a token economy, you can easily give them a token (don’t forget to pair it with verbal praise)! Or maybe you can just give a high five for some social reinforcement or even just saying good job. It is going to completely depend on your learner.

Sometimes you can even use edible items. This is never my first suggestion, but to take it away completely as an option would be doing more harm than good. I suggest using something that can be consumed easily- like one goldfish for example.

Here is an example of how it could look in your classroom:

You sit down with a student at the table.

  1. High p request: “Let’s clap our hands” *hands clap*  reinforcement “Great job”
  2. High p request: “How old are you?” *answers* reinforcement “You’re right!”
  3. High p request: “Write your first name” *writes name*  reinforcement “Amazing!”
  4. Low p request: “Complete two math problems” *completes the problems* reinforcement “WOW! Look at you go!” 

Here is another example:

  1. High p request: “What is the weather today?” *answers*  reinforcement “gives token”
  2. High p request: “Give me a high five” *gives high five* reinforcement “gives token”
  3. High p request: “Wiggle your fingers” *wiggles fingers*  reinforcement “gives token”
  4. Low p request: “Come sit on the carpet” *comes to carpet* reinforcement “gives token”

Here is one more example:

  1. High p request: “Jump 5 times” *jumps 5 times*  reinforcement “gives goldfish”
  2. High p request: “What is your dog’s name?” *answers on AAC device* reinforcement “gives goldfish”
  3. High p request: “Touch your head” *touches head* reinforcement “gives goldfish”
  4. Low p request: “Come clean up your desk” *comes to desk* reinforcement “gives goldfish”

*note that these examples only have three steps each to give you an idea. It is best to use three to give high p requests prior to a low p request*

How to Figure out What a High P Request Is

You may be wondering, what would a high-p request be for my student? And they are going to be unique to each individual. The best way to figure it out is by thinking of what your student will do consistently. If you aren’t sure, take some time to watch them.

Watch others ask different things of your student- it does not have to be academic related (such as the examples before) BUT it can be.

Say you have a student who loves math, but hates reading. They are a rockstar and love to show off their knowledge of math facts. However, when it comes to reading some new words- the behaviors come out.

Why not ask three quick facts (while providing reinforcement in between) and then present a word for them to read. And guess what? You do not have to stop there. You can go back and do the high-p sequence again! It does not need to be a one and done. 

Some students need the high-p sequence just for the simple act of task initiation. However, many will need this throughout a lesson or day- and that is okay! Just be sure you do not present it after a problem behavior has occurred. If that does happen, give it some time and then try again.

Impact on Your Entire Classroom

Increased Engagement

Since the High-P Sequence capitalizes on the principles of behavior momentum, making it more likely for students to engage in challenging tasks after experiencing success with simpler ones. So this means- it is going to have a positive outcome on engagement and academics. When students are more engaged, they are learning and  gaining new skills and concepts. 

This ultimately will lead to higher academic achievement for the student. In turn, the student will feel more success and this will snowball into continuously having the student become more and more engaged.

Instead of just viewing a task as too difficult and immediately avoiding it, they may at least attempt it because they have gained some of the previous skills they now have because they didn’t avoid it previously.

Minimized Resistance

By strategically building momentum, you’re reducing the likelihood of resistance or avoidance behaviors that might otherwise arise with demanding tasks (remember this works best for students who are constantly trying to escape the demand). This makes life easier for both you and for the student you are working with.

It can feel exhausting to continuously trying to convince a struggling learner with defiant behaviors to get onboard with your lesson. And some days, you need to focus on the other students- that is life! 

So if you could have that student give you less resistance day to day- you yourself are going to be more willing to work with them. This will also impact your relationship. We know that relationships are not the end all be all of behavior management- but they are the foundation. By not constantly being at odds or battling with your student, you are going to have a better relationship.

What does this mean?

They are going to be more willing to come to you if they are having a more difficult day. Then you will know- ok, this is not a day to push them. Just being able to have that open and honest conversation can save a lot of headaches and power struggles.

Enhanced Confidence

As students successfully navigate through the sequence, their confidence and self-esteem receive a boost, leading to a more positive attitude towards learning.

If you are constantly refusing work, not completing tasks, you are simply not going to learn the skills. If you miss crucial skills, it makes it incredibly hard to catch up.

Which will ultimately impact your confidence- same goes for our students. Students will internalize when they are not as good at something- which can perpetuate and become a cycle. 

By getting them hooked and learning early, you can prevent some of this and build the self-confidence that we want for all of our students.

Effective Behavior Management

Behavior momentum, when applied using the High-P Sequence, can be a powerful behavior management tool, promoting cooperation and reducing disruptions.

It is not something that can be used in isolation, but it is like a member of the squad. It is a tool in the toolbox. You can also have confidence that you are using a strategy that is backed by research. So often we get our classroom management tips from social media. Although there can be good tips on there, there are also many that could do more harm than good. 

This is one that will be beneficial for your students and is backed by research!

Important Tips to Remember

When to try this

Do not try to start this after a student engages in a problem behavior. For example, you do not want to ask them to start their math homework, they rip it up and then you go back to easier requests. This could teach the student that if they engage in the problem behavior, they get to do easier things.

Always give the reinforcer

Always give reinforcement after each step. Do not forget! This is part of the build up. It may seem like a lot, and it may be more than you typically have in their reinforcement schedule- but that is one of the reasons why this works.  Do not skip it!

Reinforcement may not be what you think

Remember, not everyone is motivated by “good job.” Although it was given in the example, you need to be sure the reinforcement you are giving is actually reinforcing for your students’ behavior!

Keep it moving!

Don’t waste time between the steps- you need to keep this moving to be able to gain the behavior momentum needed for the low-p request. These requests should come right after the reinforcement is given. The whole sequence should not take you very long at all-which is one of the benefits of choosing to use this one!

Don’t use simply for compliance.

We do not want to do this simply to have our students comply. We want to be sure it is going to better them- for example, it will help them learn a new skill.

By understanding and harnessing the science of behavior momentum, educators can strategically guide students towards positive behaviors while minimizing disruptions. The High-P Sequence, with its thoughtful progression from easy to more challenging tasks, not only encourages engagement and cooperation but also nurtures self-confidence and a sense of accomplishment. This is a great strategy to add to your ABA practice or to your teaching.

As special education teachers, we have the unique opportunity to tailor our strategies to the individual needs of our students.

By embracing behavior momentum and the High-P Sequence, we’re equipping ourselves with a powerful tool to create a harmonious and productive classroom environment. Through this approach, we empower our students to achieve their potential, fostering growth, success, and a brighter educational journey.

If you are still needing behavioral support check out these blogs:

10 Tips to Manage Difficult Behavior

Whether you are looking for tips on preventing behavior, or what to do when behavior starts happening (even if it is dangerous) this blog has a little bit of it all for you. It has actionable steps no matter what is going on in your classroom!

4 Tips for Recess Transition

Transitioning in from recess can be so hard- for a variety of reasons. But here are four ways that are bound to change the way your students come back in after recess. These have been used by many teachers and they have said how it has made going outside easier, so now they even go more often!

A Guide to Contingency Maps

Contingency maps are just one of those things you have to have in your toolbox. If you don’t have them, you are missing out on a huge opportunity to teach your visual and concrete learned different consequences for their behaviors- both good consequences and punitive ones.

#1 Behavior Tip: Self Regulation

This may seem like a weird one, but it is a top tip that you need! Self-regulation is a must have when implementing any behavior intervention. A dysregulated adult cannot regulate a child. However, many of us have not been given the tools to regulate when we are presented with triggers. Read this blog to learn more to remain calm, cool, and collected with any behavior!

Similar Posts