Contingency Maps

What is a contingency map?contingency map

A contingency map visually depicts two responses to a situation as well as the resulting consequence of each response or choice.  It is used when a student is having difficulty making appropriate choices or connecting behaviour to the outcome. Contingency maps are most often accompanied by pictures to the student.  Remembering/memorizing steps in picture form facilitates faster acquisition of skills for many learners.  Contingency maps increase the possibility that all staff working with the student use the same language when managing a situation, which assists the student in making better choices.  In addition, the student’s oral language development may be enhanced.

How do I create a contingency map?

1.  Think about a behavioural issue, social situation, or activity that is a concern for a student or your class (e.g. going out for recess, playing with trucks, transitioning from Math to English, feeling angry).  Keep in mind the behavioural goals and objectives from the IEP.  This is your starting point or first “square” on the map.contingency map outline

2.  Think about how you would like the student to response to the situation/issue.  List the actions of the desirable outcome in sequential order in horizontal format.  This is the “high road.”

3.  Think about how the student responds to the situation which currently brings him/her to an undesirable outcome.  List the actions of the undesirable outcome in sequential order in horizontal format.  This is the “low road.”

NOTE:  Ideally, squares in the “high road” and “low road” should match in number and should roughly be the opposite of each other.

4.  Write the phrase or “language” that will be used to describe each action.  This is best done in consultation with those members of the school-based team who are familiar with the student’s capacity for language.  The Speech and Language Pathologist should be consulted if he/she is involved with the student.

5.  Decide, based on the assessed skill level of the child, which type of picture will be used to accompany the language of the script (e.g. photographs, Boardmaker® pictures, line-drawings).

6.  Add language and pictures to the frame.

How do I teach the use of contingency maps?

1. Model how to use the map:

a.  Point to each picture as you read the map to the student and/or class.

b.  Explain why and when you will use the map.  For example, say, “Before recess, we will read the map so you’ll remember how to use the high road to solve problems at the swings.

c.  Model or role play the “high road,” step by step, using the scripted language.  If appropriate, depending upon the student’s cognitive level, model the thinking that goes on in a person’s head as he/she decides how to handle the situation.

Note:  Depending on the student, you may want to fold the map so that only the “high road” is visible.  Some students can get overly focused on the “low road,” or the inappropriate way to handle the situation.  Others may feel overwhelmed by the amount of visual information.

2.  Guided Practice:

  • Give the student an opportunity to practice using the map with full support in a role-play situation.  Then practice in the real-life situation.  Set up the situation so the student has the opportunity to use the “high road,” and successfully navigate the situation.
  • Allow multiple opportunities to practice, with support, over days and/or weeks as necessary.
  • Teach on a daily basis.

3.  Teach to independence

  • Fade adult support/prompts, and allow the student to navigate the situation independently (with or without the map in view, depending on the need of the student).
  • Gather data to monitor the effectiveness of the contingency map.

Click on the pictures below for printable examples:

When I want something When I can't get something right.. lunch time
Playground frustrated with work hometime CM

I can try to contingency map