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with Heather Gilmore, MSW, LLMSW, BCBA

Environmental Arrangement: Changing the Environment to Change Behavior

Although many clinicians focus on the child’s or the client’s behaviors and the behaviors of others that may reinforce appropriate or maladaptive behaviors in that individual, another strategy that can be used effectively for changing behaviors is known as environmental arrangement.

Environmental Arrangement: Changing the Environment Can Change Behavior

By using environmental arrangement, or making changes to the environment, behavior can change, as well. This is true for both children and adults.

Let’s look at a few examples of how environmental arrangement can be used.

Creating Physical Areas for Personal Space

Everyone needs a certain level of personal space. Personal space between one person and another is essential for maintaining healthy boundaries in relationships.

Various levels of personal space also plays a role in defining a relationship. For instance, when two people are physically closer to one another this often indicates a more intimate relationship whereas two people who have just met are likely to remain at a larger distance.Personal space is not just a concept that applies to relationships, though. It is also important that people have physical space that is designed for their own use and their own escape from a group or public setting.

Reduce Visual Stimuli in the Environment

There are many ways that this can be accomplished. Reducing visual stimuli in the environment may mean reducing clutter in the room or having less tangible materials available.

Reducing visual stimuli in the environment may be addressed by reducing the amount of decor on the walls or the amount of toys available.

Clear Main Traffic Areas

It is important for safety reasons as well as to promote positive behaviors that main traffic areas are clear. The places where people walk the most often should be clear of items. The physical space should be easy to navigate and share with others.

Rearrange Items in a More Organized Fashion

By placing items in a logical and organized manner, you can reduce behaviors and improve skills. This is applicable for both children and adults, as well.

Put Up Barriers

Barriers can help to promote the other tips above. Barriers, like room dividers or strategic placement of furniture, can help to create greater organization of the environment. It can support the maintenance of main traffic areas. It can also help to reduce visual stimuli in the environment.

Reduce Noise

Remove sources of noise when the noise is not conducive to positive behavior.

Make Adjustments to Sensory Input

Behavior may be influenced by the sensory input received from the environment. For instance, things like lighting, temperature, and physical sensations can interact with behaviors.

By having more or less lighting or certain types of lighting you may be able to promote certain types of behavior. Dimmer light may correlate with less hyperactivity. On the other hand, bright light such as that from outdoors can help contribute to increased alertness. This will depend on the person and the behavior.

Physical sensations, such as the feeling of the chair you are sitting in or certain textures that you may or may not like, can contribute to behavior.

Environmental Arrangement

By making changes in the environment, behavior can change, as well. This applies to children and adults. It also applies to all contexts including at home, at school, in a therapeutic setting, at work, and in the community.

Try looking closely at what types of environmental arrangement strategies influence your behavior to learn more about how this strategy impacts you. You could also observe how making changes in the environment impacts your children or your students.


Environmental Arrangement: Changing the Environment to Change Behavior

Heather Gilmore, MSW, BCBA

Heather is a freelance writer, Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), and social worker. Heather takes interest in topics related to parenting, children, families, personal development, health and wellness, applied behavior analysis, as well as Autism, ADHD, Depression and Anxiety. Contact Heather if you would like to inquire about obtaining her freelance writing services. You can view more articles and resources from Heather at and email her at [email protected] You can also advertise your autism services at one of Heather's websites: Heather is the developer of the "One-Year ABA Parent Training Curriculum."


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APA Reference
Gilmore, H. (2020). Environmental Arrangement: Changing the Environment to Change Behavior. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 19, 2020, from