Problem Behavior Triggered by Specific Words

  • A student is with his class shopping at the supermarket and the cashier says, “Thank you.” The student stomps his feet in reaction to hearing “thank you” and the staff quickly escorts him from the store before the behavior escalates.
  • A family is at a restaurant and someone at another table says “Wow, that’s beautiful” in conversation. The child starts to yell in response to the word “wow” and the parents attempt to distract the child from the conversation at the other table.
  • Parents having to perform certain daily routines
  • An adult having to act or respond in a certain way
  • An adult having to respond to repeated questions
  • The student hears an audio recording of trigger word by an unfamiliar person
  • The student hears an app label the trigger word paired with a sight word presentation
  • The student reads the trigger word presented on a flashcard
  • The student hears the trigger word stated aloud by a familiar staff person



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Mary E. McDonald, Ph.D., BCBA

Mary E. McDonald, Ph.D., BCBA


Professor @HofstraU, Researcher, Author, Autism Specialist, Behavior Analyst, and Speaker