Headphones/Sound Buffers

The Strategy

Headphones or other sound buffers are used while the student completes independent academic work to reduce extraneous stimuli so the student can attend to the relevant academic material, remain on task, and avoid disrupting peers. Some students and adolescents are easily distracted or overstimulated by sounds in their environment. The headphones can be used for noise cancelling or to provide white noise or background music.

  1. Identify periods of the day that the student has difficulty remaining on task or appears particularly distracted by classroom stimuli.
  2. Review the expectations for the student when utilizing their headphones in the classroom (e.g., only agreed upon music/white noise; no sharing music with classmates; appropriate volume; must be removed when teacher is providing instruction). Discuss the consequence on inappropriate behavior.
  3. Provide the student the opportunity to use headphones during difficult class periods or on days that they are highly distractible. Provide immediate feedback for appropriate/inappropriate behavior.
  4. Use Beacon progress monitoring tools to evaluate the extent to which this strategy is improving the target behaviors as intended.

  • The goal with this service is to reduce distractions. Some music may inadvertently create more or different distraction, particularly if the student is free to select music from their music library or from the internet. White noise or other non-vocal background sounds (e.g., rain, fan, running water) may be the best options in order to provide a consistent, non-distracting sound.
  • You may need to explain to other students why this student is allowed have their headphones on during class time. Teachers can talk to their class about how all students learn in different ways and may need different things to maximize success. See our Sample Scripts document below for additional guidance on this discussion.
  • If the student is becoming more distracted by their music or sound selection, the strategy may not be the best option. Continue to monitor progress as you implement the strategy and adjust as needed.

Because using headphones or sound buffers do not effectively build the skills students need to independently meet age-appropriate expectations, they cannot be evaluated for effectiveness. The goal of headphones or sound buffers is to create a quiet environment for a student to focus on their assignments. If this strategy is selected for use in the short term, it is recommended that it be replaced at some point with an intervention to help the student develop the skills needed to independently meet age-appropriate expectations by being able to work and ignore distractions.

Intervention Scorecard

This intervention is recommended for the following presenting problems.

Select an age group:


Other suitable presenting problems