Showing posts sorted by relevance for query problematic behavior. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query problematic behavior. Sort by date Show all posts


Managing Disruptive Behavior in Children with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

“We've been going in circles with our high functioning (autistic) 8 y.o. and his disruptive behavior – hitting, kicking, throwing things, just to name a few. We have tried all that we know to try. It's been difficult when he acts out, not respecting us or his siblings. It impacts the entire family! Do you have any ideas of how to handle disruptive behavior of this kind?”

One of the biggest obstacles a parent faces is managing disruptive behavior in the child with Asperger’s (AS) or High-Functioning Autism (HFA). Whether the child is refusing to eat what was prepared, or throwing tantrum on the way to school, the parent can find herself at a loss for an effective way to respond.

If you are at your wits end, the ABC method can provide a roadmap to a calmer, more reliable way to manage problematic behaviors. This method also offers a chance to help the AS or HFA child to gain the developmental skills he needs to regulate his own behavior.

The ABC Method of Behavior Management

To understand and respond successfully to misbehavior, parents have to think about what came before it – and what comes after it. Here are the 3 crucial features to any given behavior:
  • Antecedent: This is the preceding factor (or trigger) that makes a behavior more or less likely to occur. Learning and anticipating the antecedent is a very helpful tool in preventing problematic behavior.
  • Behavior: This, of course, is the specific action the parent is trying to discourage - or encourage - as the case may be.
  • Consequence: This refers to the result that logically and naturally follows a behavior. The consequence affects the likelihood of a behavior recurring, whether it’s positive or negative. Also, the more immediate the consequence, the more influential it is.

Identifying “target behaviors” is the first step in a good behavior-management plan. These behaviors need to be (a) specific (so both parent and child are clear on what is expected), (b) observable, and (c) measurable (so parent and child can agree whether or not the behavior happened). An example of poorly defined behavior is “acting-out,” or “being mean.” An example of well-defined behavior is “completing homework” (good) “pushing your sister” (bad).

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's


Antecedents come in many forms. Some are wonderful tools that assist the parent in managing misbehavior before it begins as well as bolstering appropriate behavior, while others facilitate misbehavior. Let’s look at each of these in turn…

Antecedents that bolster appropriate behavior:

1. Providing countdowns for transitions: As often as possible, the parent should prepare her AS or HFA child for an upcoming transition. For example, let the child know when there are 15 minutes remaining …then 10 minutes …then 5 before he must come to dinner or start his homework. Note: Making the transition at the stated time is just as important as issuing the countdown.

2. Making expectations clear: Parents will get better cooperation if they and their youngster are clear on what is expected. Its best to sit down with the child and present the information verbally – and then put it in writing and post it in a prominent location. Even the child “should know” what is expected, explaining expectations at the outset of a task will help avoid misunderstandings down the line.

3. Letting children have a choice: As the child grows up, it’s crucial she has a say in her own scheduling. Giving a structured choice can help her feel empowered and encourage her to become more self-regulating (e.g., “Do you want to pick up your dirty clothes before or after dinner?”).

4. Being aware of the situation: Parents need to consider and manage both emotional and environmental factors. For example, anxiety, hunger, fatigue, or distractions can all make it much more difficult for the youngster to effectively manage his behavior.

5. Adjusting the environment: Examples of adjusting the environment are (a) removing distractions such as video screens and toys when it’s time to do homework, (b) providing a snack, (c) establishing an organized space for the child to work, and (d) making sure to schedule some breaks.

Antecedents that facilitate misbehavior:

1. Initiating transitions without warnings: A transition is hard for a child with AS or HFA – especially in the middle of something he is enjoying. Providing a warning gives the youngster the opportunity to find a good stopping place for an activity and makes the transition less stressful.

2. Shouting instructions out from a distance: It’s helpful to give the child important instructions face-to-face. A parent’s request that is yelled from a distance is less likely to be understood and remembered.

3. Assuming expectations are comprehended: Parents should not assume that their child automatically knows what is expected of him. The expectation needs to be spelled out! Demands change from circumstance to circumstance, and when the youngster is unsure of what he is supposed to be doing, he’s more likely to engage in problematic behavior.

4. Giving too many instructions at once: If parents deliver a series of instructions or ask a lot of questions, it limits the likelihood that the child will hear, answer questions, remember the tasks, and do what she has been instructed to do.

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism


Not all consequences are created equal. Some have the potential to do more harm than good, while others are an exceptional way to create structure and help AS and HFA children understand the difference between unacceptable and acceptable behaviors. As a mother or father, having a good understanding of how to consistently and intelligently employ consequences can make a huge difference in outcomes.

Consequences that bolster appropriate behavior:

1. Being clear and concrete when using time-outs: Parents should establish which behaviors will result in a time-out. When the AS or HFA youngster exhibits that behavior, the corresponding time-out needs to be relatively brief and immediately follow the misbehavior. If a time-out was delivered for not complying with a task, once it ends, the youngster needs to be instructed to complete the original task. In this way, he or she won’t begin to see time-outs as an escape method. During the time-out, parents should not talk to their youngster until he or she is ending the time-out. It should end once the youngster has been calm and quiet for a brief amount of time so that he or she learns to associate the end of time-out with this desired behavior.

2. Staying consistent: If parents arbitrarily issue time-outs when they are feeling aggravated, it will undermine the behavior-management system and make it harder for the youngster to connect behaviors to consequences.

3. Using active ignoring: Ignoring is used for minor misbehaviors and involves the deliberate withdrawal of attention when the youngster starts to misbehave. With this method, parents pick their battles carefully and save their energy for the larger issues that need to be addressed (e.g., verbal or physical aggression). As parents ignore, they wait for appropriate behavior to resume. Then they should give positive attention as soon as the desired behavior starts. By withholding attention until positive behavior is exhibited, parents are teaching their youngster what behavior gets acknowledged and praised.

4. Using positive attention for positive behaviors: When parents give their youngster positive reinforcement for behaving appropriately, it helps maintain that ongoing good behavior. Positive attention improves self-esteem and enhances the quality of the parent-child relationship. Positive attention to “brave behavior” can also help alleviate anxiety, as well as help the child become more receptive to instructions and limit-setting.

5. Using reward menus: A reward is a tangible way to give your youngster positive feedback for desired behaviors. It’s something that is earned, an acknowledgement that the child is doing something that’s difficult for him. A reward is most effective as a motivator when the youngster can choose from a variety of things (e.g., a special treat, extra time on the computer, etc.). This reduces the possibility of a reward losing its allure over time. Also, the reward needs to be linked to specific behaviors – and always delivered consistently.

==> Parenting System that Reduces Problematic Behavior in Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism 

Consequences that facilitate misbehavior:

1. Using positive consequences for negative behaviors: This reinforces the behavior you are trying to eliminate. For example, if your youngster procrastinates instead of putting on her shoes or pouring milk for her cereal, in frustration, you do it for her, you have just increased the likelihood that she will procrastinate again in the future.

2. Giving negative attention: Negative attention actually increases bad behavior over time (e.g., raising your voice, threatening to issue a consequence, etc.). Also, reacting to misbehavior with criticism or yelling negatively affects your youngster’s self-esteem. Kids value attention from their parents so much that any attention — negative or positive — is better than none.

3. Using disproportionate consequences: As a parent of a child on the autism spectrum, you understandably get perturbed from time to time. You may even have become so frustrated at a particular behavior that you said or did something that you felt guilty about later. This is normal and to be expected.  But, keep in mind that issuing a massive consequence – especially out of anger – that is not in proportion to the misbehavior is demoralizing for kids, and they may even give up trying to behave well.

4. Delaying consequences: Effective consequences are immediate. Every minute that passes after a behavior, your youngster is less likely to link his misbehavior to the consequence. As a result, you end up punishing for the sake of punishing, which makes it much less likely that the misbehavior will change.

Though kids with AS and HFA are found to have neurologically and developmental related symptoms over time, the primary problem is behavior. Moms and dads need an arsenal of coping methods to reduce the behavioral problems at home. By utilizing the suggestions listed above, such problems can be reduced to a more manageable - and livable - level.

==> More parenting strategies for dealing with behavioral problems in children and teens on the autism spectrum...

More resources for parents of children and teens with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's:

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook

==> Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Audio Book

==> Parenting System that Reduces Problematic Behavior in Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism


Identifying the Underlying Causes of “Difficult Behavior” in Kids on the Spectrum

"As a teacher, I would like to ask you what method you use to find the real reasons [or triggers] for behavior problems in students with high functioning autism?"

In order to identify the underlying causes of difficult behaviors in children with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA), a Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA) must be performed. An FBA is an approach that incorporates a variety of techniques to diagnose the causes and to identify likely interventions intended to address difficult behaviors.

An FBA looks beyond the actual problem behavior, and instead, focuses on identifying biological, social, affective, and environmental factors that initiate, sustain, or end the problem behavior in question. The FBA is important because it leads the researcher beyond the "symptom" (i.e., the behavior) to the child's underlying motivation to escape, avoid, or get something (i.e., the cause of the behavior). Behavior intervention plans stemming from the knowledge of why a child misbehaves are extremely useful in addressing a wide range of issues.

The “functions” of behavior are not usually considered inappropriate. Rather, it is the behavior itself that is judged appropriate or inappropriate. For example, getting good grades and engaging in problematic behavior may serve the same function (e.g., to get attention), but the behaviors that lead to good grades are judged to be more appropriate than those that make up acting-out behavior.

As an example, if the IEP team determines through an FBA that a child is seeking attention by misbehaving, they can develop a plan to teach the child more appropriate ways to gain attention, thus fulfilling the child's need for attention with an alternative behavior that serves the same function as the inappropriate behavior. By incorporating an FBA into the IEP process, team members can develop a plan that teaches “replacement behaviors” that serve the same function as the difficult behavior.

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

Before an FBA can be implemented, it is necessary to identify the behavior that is causing problems, and to define that behavior in concrete terms that are easy to communicate and simple to measure and record. If descriptions of behaviors are vague (e.g., child has a “bad attitude”), it is difficult to determine appropriate interventions.

It will be necessary to observe the child's behavior in different settings and during different types of activities, and to conduct interviews with parents and teachers in order to identify the specific traits of the behavior. Once the difficult behavior has been defined concretely, the IEP team can begin to devise a plan for conducting an FBA to determine the functions of the behavior.

Since difficult behavior stems from a variety of causes, it is best to examine the behavior from as many different angles as possible. The IEP team should assess what the "pay-off" for engaging in problem behavior is, or what the child escapes/avoids/gets by engaging in the problem behavior. This assessment will enable the team to identify workable techniques for developing and conducting an FBA and developing behavior interventions.

When carrying out these tasks, the IEP team should find answers to a few critical questions. Addressing these questions will assist the team in determining the necessary components of the assessment plan, and will lead to more effective behavior intervention plans. Questions to ask include the following:
  • Are there any settings where the problem behavior does not occur?
  • Does the child find any value in engaging in appropriate behavior?
  • Does the child have the skills necessary to perform expected behaviors?
  • Does the child realize that he is engaging in unacceptable behavior, or has that behavior simply become a "habit"? 
  • Does the child understand the behavioral expectations for the situation? 
  • In what settings is the problem behavior observed? 
  • Is it possible that the child is uncertain about the appropriateness of the behavior?
  • Is it within the child's power to control the behavior, or does she need support? 
  • Is the behavior problem associated with certain social or environmental conditions? 
  • Is the child attempting to avoid a demanding task?
  • Is there a more acceptable behavior that might replace this behavior? 
  • Is there evidence to suggest that the child does not know how to perform the skill – and therefore can’t? 
  • What activities or interactions take place just prior to the behavior? 
  • What current rules, routines, or expectations does the child consider irrelevant?
  • What usually happens immediately after the behavior? 
  • Who is present when the behavior occurs?

Interviews with the child may be useful in identifying how he perceived the situation and what caused him to act in the way he did. Questionnaires, motivational scales, and checklists can also be used to structure indirect assessments of behavior. For example:

1. Hypothesis statement— Drawing on information that emerges from the analysis, school staff can establish a “working hypothesis” regarding the function of the behaviors in question. This hypothesis predicts the general conditions under which the behavior is most - and least - likely to occur, as well as the likely consequences that serve to maintain it.

2. Direct assessment— Direct assessment involves observing and recording situational factors surrounding a difficult behavior (e.g., antecedent and consequent events). A member of the IEP team may observe the behavior in the setting that it is likely to occur, and record data using an Antecedent- Behavior- Consequence (ABC) approach.

3. Data analysis— Once the IEP team is satisfied that enough data have been collected, they should compare and analyze the data. This analysis will help the team to determine whether or not there are any patterns associated with the behavior. If patterns can’t be determined, the team should revise the FBA to identify other methods for assessing behavior.

After collecting data on a child's behavior, and after developing a hypothesis of the function of that behavior, the IEP team should develop the child's behavior intervention plan. It is helpful to use the data collected during the FBA to develop the plan and to determine the discrepancy between the youngster's actual and expected behavior.

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

Intervention plans emphasizing the skills that AS and HFA children need in order to behave in a more appropriate manner will be more effective than plans that simply serve to control behavior. Interventions based upon “control” often fail to generalize (i.e., fail to continue to be used for long periods of time, in many settings, and in a variety of situations). Control measures usually only serve to suppress behavior, resulting in the youngster meeting unaddressed needs in alternative, inappropriate ways.

It is good practice for IEP teams to include two evaluation procedures in an intervention plan:
  • one designed to measure changes in behavior
  • one designed to monitor the accuracy with which the plan is implemented

In addition, IEP teams must determine a timeline for implementation and reassessment, and specify the degree of behavior change consistent with the goal of the overall intervention.

To be meaningful, plans need to be reviewed at least annually and revised as needed. However, the plan may be reviewed and re-evaluated whenever any member of the youngster's IEP team feels that a review is necessary. Circumstances that may warrant a review include the following:
  • It is clear that the original behavior intervention plan is not bringing about positive changes in the child's behavior.
  • The situation has changed, and the behavioral interventions no longer address the current needs of the child.
  • The youngster has reached his behavioral goals and objectives, and new goals and objectives need to be established.
  • The IEP team makes a change in placement.

If done correctly, the net result of an FBA is that school personnel are better able to provide an educational environment that addresses the special learning needs of the AS/HFA child.

CLICK HERE for an example of a completed Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA) form…

CLICK HERE for a blank FBA and Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) form…

More resources for parents of children and teens with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's:

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook

==> Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Audio Book

==> Parenting System that Reduces Problematic Behavior in Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism


The Use of “Structure” to Reduce Problematic Behavior in Kids with ASD [level 1]

"Any methods for preventing problem behaviors in an out of control child with an autism spectrum disorder? Please help with advice!"

For many children with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA), problematic behaviors are common. The term “problematic behavior” is a controversial one, but it’s intended to suggest that certain behaviors present a “problem” for parents, siblings, peers, teachers, therapists, etc. This helps to prevent internalizing the cause of the behaviors and blaming the “special needs” child.

This is a very important concept in AS and HFA, because it’s unlikely that any behavior which causes difficulties for parents and others is intended vindictively or maliciously. There is usually some other, unidentified, cause that provokes problematic behavior. Young people on the autism spectrum derive no enjoyment by being a problem to others.

Most problematic behaviors occur in the presence of parents and siblings (probably because AS and HFA children feel more comfortable simply being themselves when around familiar people). If such behavior is a problem for therapists and other professionals (which it is), then it can certainly be a challenge for moms, dads and siblings. Thus, it’s crucial that problematic behaviors are dealt with in way that (a) helps the entire family to cope more effectively, and (b) allows the “special needs” child to develop social skills and emotion management. 

Low-frustration tolerance is one of the most common problems in young people on the autism spectrum. They often appear to go into a state of anger, rage, anxiety, or fear for no reason. All children get frustrated and then act-out from time to time, but this problem is more of a challenge for moms and dads of autistic children. These children may seem inconsolable during the episode of frustration, the episode often lasts a long time, and the resolution that typically accompanies the end of feeling frustrated rarely occurs.

Low-frustration tolerance is just one example of problematic behavior. Similar episodes of panic, anxiety, anger, and aggression may be seen all through childhood, the teenage years, and even into adulthood (e.g., yelling, crying, resisting contact with others, pushing others away, refusing to respond to interaction, using others as objects, refusing to comply with daily tasks, etc.). These behaviors are “problematic” in the sense that they cause disruption (e.g., to a classroom engaged in a lesson, a family outing or event, etc.).

Children and teens with AS and HFA often rely on rituals, routines and structure, which helps define the world in terms of consistent rules and explanations. Consistency helps these young people to function more comfortably in a world that would otherwise be perceived as confusing, chaotic and hostile. Most kids on the autism spectrum find their own strategies for imposing structure and maintaining consistency. Without this structure, they would be totally overwhelmed and unable to function …they would be unable to understand the behavior of others …and the information they receive through their senses would be nearly impossible to bring together into a purposeful whole.

==> How to Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums in Asperger's and HFA Children

When structure and consistency are disrupted in the AS or HFA child’s life, the world becomes confusing and overwhelming again – thus launching him or her into “problematic” behaviors as a response. This disruption of structure can be obvious (e.g., getting up at an unusual hour, having a collection of objects disturbed, not being able to engage in a favorite activity, being made to go a different way to school, etc.) …or it may be hidden (e.g., sensory sensitivities, subtle changes in the environment which the youngster is used to, etc.). Many of these “triggers” may be out of the control of the child. Thus, it’s important to remember that low-frustration tolerance and similar behaviors are not cases of “misbehavior” necessarily, rather they may simply be natural reactions to various unwanted stimuli.

"Structure-Dependent" Thinking in Kids with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism 


How parents can begin to reduce problematic behaviors in their AS or HFA child:

1. At the time of the inappropriate behavior, be sure to limit your talking to “stating the rule and consequence.” Lengthy debates, explanations and arguments should be avoided at this time. Also, ignore complaints from your youngster. Further discussion about the rule and consequence can be done at a later time when things have calmed down.

2. Avoid anger and over-reaction to your child’s problematic behavior. Don’t let your emotions take control. Refrain from demanding or shouting. Stay calm! You’re “over-reacting” will through “gas on the fire.”

3. Establish family rules and put them in writing. Rules should be (a) specific, (b) easy to understand, (c) achievable, (d) age-appropriate, and (e) consistent. Rules should be discussed and decided upon ahead of time in mutual collaboration between the mom and dad without the youngster present. Then, after the rules have been agreed upon, they should be explained to the youngster in simple, concrete terms.

4. Help your youngster use problem-solving skills in order to make a plan for changing behavior in the future. For example, if the behavior involves difficulties getting along with peers, help your youngster learn appropriate communication and conflict resolutions skills.

5. Listen to your youngster’s point of view about a particular rule. When appropriate, consider making changes to the rule based on your youngster’s reasoning. This doesn’t mean you are “giving in” to your youngster’s demands, rather it means that (at times) you will negotiate with your youngster on a rule and reach a compromise.

==> How to Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums in Asperger's and HFA Children

6. Make your expectations very clear. For example, let your child know that (a) she WILL be required to perform certain tasks (e.g., completing homework, cleaning her bedroom, getting ready for school on time, etc.), and (b) there WILL be consequences for not completing such tasks.

7. Set up routines for daily living that are consistent and predictable (e.g., morning, mealtime, and bedtime routines). Your youngster will learn many things from these routines (e.g., how to take care of herself, how to interact with others, discovering that life runs more smoothly if things are organized and predictable, etc.).

8. Simply ignore some behaviors (e.g., whining and complaining).

9. Structuring your youngster’s environment. Determine what activities he will engage in and how he will fill his time. Also, be available physically and mentally to provide appropriate monitoring and supervision.

10. Try to anticipate problem situations (e.g., don’t let your youngster get into a situation where he becomes overly tired, hungry, or bored).

11. Use distraction techniques. If your youngster is acting-out, distraction with something of interest can focus her on more positive behaviors.

12. Use rewards to increase appropriate behavior. When it comes to children on the autism spectrum, it’s usually better to reward desirable behaviors than to discipline undesirable ones. Also, it’s best to provide the reward immediately after the desired behavior has occurred.

AS and HFA Kids Want Structure 


Note: While providing structure and consistency are important skills for you to use with your AS or HFA child, it’s also important to be aware of the importance of allowing her some independence and autonomy. As often as is appropriate, allow your child to have opportunities to make her own choices and decisions, respect her choices and decisions, and allow natural “real-world” consequences to occur (when safety is not an issue, of course).


The ABC Model: Behavior Modification for Children on the Autism Spectrum

"What suggestions would you have for helping my child to increase his appropriate behaviors? I think I should focus on bringing out the positive instead of just punishing the negative."

Behavior modification is an effective technique used to treat Asperger’s and High Functioning Autism (HFA). The fundamentals of behavior modification can be used to increase desired behaviors in the child, regardless of functional level (e.g., a mother who wants her youngster to consistently make the bed can use behavior modification to help achieve this goal).

In order to be successful, behavior modification techniques should be applied consistently across all areas of the youngster’s life. Also, understand that the longer a particular problematic behavior has been evident, the longer it will take to change it. Thus, it may take a while for the chosen techniques to be effective. The parents’ job is to focus on the behavior they would like to increase or decrease. The more parents learn about behavior modification techniques, the more tools they will possess to help shape and promote the behavior they want to see more often in their child.

Behavior is observable and measurable (i.e., any action that can be seen or heard). An effective method of examining behavior is the ABC model:

A=Antecedent: The event occurring before a behavior (the event prompts a certain behavior)
B=Behavior:  Response to the events that can be seen or heard
C=Consequence: The event that follows the behavior, which effects whether the behavior will occur again (when the behavior is followed by an unpleasant consequence, it is less likely to reoccur; when the behavior is followed by a pleasant consequence, it is more likely to reoccur)

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

Let’s look at a specific example of how the ABC model works:

A youngster who is exhibiting a temper tantrum may be seeking attention.  If the parent responds to the tantrum (whether to comfort or scold), the behavior is being rewarded by the parent’s reaction – even when it’s a negative reaction.  Thus, in this situation, it would be best if the parent waited for the tantrum to stop, and then reward (i.e., reinforce) the calm behavior verbally (e.g., “I like how quiet you are being right now”).  In this way, the youngster learns that he or she can gain the parent’s attention through more appropriate behavior.

Points to keep in mind when implementing the ABC model:

1. When “rewarding” appropriate behaviors, be sure to label the behavior you are praising. Be very specific (e.g., rather than saying “You’re being a good boy” …say something like “You did a great job of picking your toys up and putting them in the basket”).

2. Reward the appropriate behavior immediately after that behavior is exhibited. For example, Randy picks up his toys after his mother asks him to do so, yet she takes the time to finish folding clothes before she acknowledges Randy’s appropriate behavior.  Randy starts to have a tantrum, so his mother gives him a snack. Randy has now learned that he gets a treat for having a tantrum, and ‘putting his toys away when asked’ is forgotten.  Thus, it’s important to have reinforcers (i.e., rewards) handy, and reinforce immediately after the target behavior occurs.

3. Only chose one behavior at a time that you want to increase or decrease, and work on that.  Addressing several behaviors at once may backfire.

4. Make sure the request you are making is very clear and concise.  Don’t cloud the request with superfluous wording. Also, don’t make more than one request at a time.

5. Choose reinforcers that are meaningful to your youngster (e.g., if he has no interest in going shopping with you, and you say something like “If you’ll eat your vegetables, I’ll take you shopping with me” …then this is not likely to result in an increase in ‘vegetable-eating’ behavior).

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

6. When providing rewards for appropriate behavior, be enthusiastic and animated.  Whenever your youngster starts to master a target behavior, get excited, break out the potato chips, and give plenty of hugs and tickles all at once. Really show your youngster how pleased you are with him or her. 

7. Parents can also increase desirable behavior by “modeling” (i.e., a process whereby the child learns a skill through observing and imitating the parent).

8. Initially, you will need to reward your youngster every time the target behavior occurs. But as time goes by (assuming you are implementing the ABC model correctly), your child may begin to exhibit the preferred behavior without any rewards (in other words, the ‘new’ behavior will become a habit).

9. Another technique to use when starting out involves pairing edible, social or toy rewards with verbal praise. But as time goes by, you may only need to provide verbal praise. Your youngster will learn that pleasing you is a reward in-and-of itself.

10. Know the difference between “reinforcement” and “bribery.” Reinforcement comes after a behavior is exhibited (e.g., “You did a wonderful job of hanging up your clothes. Now you can go watch TV”), whereas bribery is offered beforehand (e.g., “O.K. You can watch TV, but then I want you to go and hang up all your clothes”). 

11. Create a list of reinforcers that seem to work with your child (literally write them down). Examples of effective reinforcers may include:
  • asking a question
  • complimenting your child
  • giving positive attention
  • having a conversation with her
  • joining in an activity 
  • leaning toward her
  • looking at her
  • making a comment
  • small gifts (e.g., toys, puzzles, books)
  • smiling
  • snacks (e.g., Gold Fish crackers) 
  • special activities (e.g., movies, zoo, going to the park)

12. In the later stages of behavior modification, you will need to change the “reinforcement schedule.” If a child is reinforced every single time she does something good, eventually the reinforcement loses its power. Thus, initially reinforce what you want with consistency, then as your child starts to respond, change your schedule of reinforcement to every second or third time she does what you want. Eventually, you may be able to change it again to every fourth or fifth time. Let's look at an example:

If you want your child to put her Legos away, then first arrange a situation where she has to gather them up (e.g., pile them in front of her bedroom door so that she either has to move them or step over them). Once your child puts the Legos in their containers, look her in the eye and tell her what a big help she is. Make sure that the comment directly follows the desired behavior. Eventually, your child may put her Legos away on a fairly consistent basis. Once that happens, don’t compliment her every time. Instead, change from a “modification stage” to a “maintenance stage” and compliment on average every second to fifth time she picks up after herself.

When using the ABC model, always remember that your child is not an experiment, rather he is an individual capable of changing unwanted behavior - when offered the correct means to do so.

More resources for parents of children and teens with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's:

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook

==> Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Audio Book

==> Parenting System that Reduces Problematic Behavior in Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism


The Value of a “Behavior Log”: Help for Children on the Autism Spectrum

Problematic emotional reactions and behaviors (e.g., aggression, meltdowns, self-injury, etc.) are common in kids and teens with Asperger’s (AS) and High Functioning Autism (HFA). In many cases, medical conditions may cause or exacerbate maladaptive behaviors. Recognition and treatment of these conditions may eliminate the need for medications (e.g., in the case of an acute onset of aggressive or self-injurious behavior, the source of pain can be identified and treated).

Some of the sources of physical discomfort that may cause or exacerbate maladaptive behaviors in AS and HFA children include the following:
  • allergic rhinitis (allergic inflammation of the nasal airways)
  • colitis (inflammation of the inner lining of the colon)
  • constipation
  • dental abscess
  • esophagitis (inflammation of the esophagus)
  • fractures
  • gastritis (inflammation, irritation, or erosion of the lining of the stomach)
  • headaches
  • otitis externa (inflammation of the outer ear and ear canal)
  • otitis media (middle ear infection)
  • pharyngitis (inflammation of the throat)
  • sinusitis (inflammation of the sinuses)
  • urinary tract infection

Additional sources of maladaptive behaviors may include the following:

1. A chronic illness or low-grade infection could make your child irritable.

2. A mismatch between behavioral expectations and cognitive ability of the youngster is often responsible for disruptive behavior. Adjustment of expectations is the most appropriate intervention. A functional analysis of behavior (completed by a behavior specialist in the settings in which the problems occur) will identify factors in the environment that exacerbate or maintain the maladaptive behavior. An intervention using behavioral techniques and environmental manipulations can then be formulated and tested.

3. Being hungry, tired, or thirsty can make your youngster cranky.

4. Changes in routine often impact behavior (e.g., parents going through divorce, a health crisis, a job change, a move, etc.).

5. Coordination problems can contribute to stress and behavior issues. If your youngster has trouble undoing buttons or zippers, the short time allotted for bathroom breaks at school can add tremendous stress. Also, when a child walks awkwardly, negotiating a crowded hallway between classes can be stressful.

==> How to Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums in Children with Asperger's and HFA

6. Environmental factors often precipitate challenging behaviors (e.g., fluorescent lighting, foul smells, a room that is too cool or too warm, crowded hallways, etc.).

7. Look for possible sources of pain (e.g., teeth, reflux, gut, broken bones, cuts and splinters, infections, abscesses, sprains, bruises, etc.). Any behaviors that seem to be localized might indicate pain.

8. Maybe your child has no friends at school, so recess is particularly tough for him.

9. Obstructive sleep apnea can contribute to behavioral problems and may be amenable to weight reduction, tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy, or continuous positive airway pressure.

10.  Poor sleep or coming down with a cold could easily explain unusual behavior.

11.  Some behaviors (especially those that seem particularly odd or abrupt) may be due to seizures.

12.  Negative emotions (e.g., sorrow, anger, fear, anxiety, etc.) can have an impact on behavior.

13.  Flushed cheeks or diarrhea within a few hours of eating a particular food may indicate an allergy, which can in turn create behavioral issues. Try to identify any food allergies or sensitivities that might be bothering your youngster.

14.  When behavioral problems appear to be related to menstrual cycles in a teenage girl on the autism spectrum, use of an analgesic or oral or injectable contraceptive can be helpful.

15.  Your youngster may respond with disruptive behavior if he’s being overwhelmed by too much sensory information.

Many of the behaviors that kids with AS and HFA exhibit do not make obvious sense, because they don’t seem to serve any clear purpose (e.g., an unusual attachment to inanimate objects such as rubber bands and tooth pics). But parents and teachers should assume that “strange” behaviors like this do make some sense to the child. He or she is sending coded messages about things that are important to him or her. The trick is to break the code so that the messages can be “read.”

Behaviors That Should Not Be Punished Because They Are Part of the Disorder 

==> How to Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums in Children with Asperger's and HFA

Here’s an effective way to begin to “read” the coded messages:

Start recording problematic behaviors (e.g., emotional outbursts). Does the child act-out when fluorescent lights are turned on in the kitchen? Is the child more likely to have outbursts during recess at school? What time do these events most often happen?

Most problematic behaviors are triggered by an event. Just as one might suddenly feel thirsty as he or she walks past a lemonade stand, there are “triggering events” in the AS and HFA child’s day that trigger difficult behaviors. Thus, it is helpful to use a behavior log to try to identify these trigger events for some of the child’s most difficult behaviors. Rather than looking at the behavior as “bad,” parents and teachers should look for how the context or environment is out of synch with the youngster.

A behavior log is useful in both the home and educational environment where the parent and teacher can monitor the behavior of AS or HFA child. The log allows the observer to identify some specific behavior demonstrated by the child and proceed to consider the best ways to correct any inappropriate behavior. Also, the log allows a monitoring of behavior of the child over a certain time frame before taking action on or against her (i.e., punishment) so that the right experience can be developed between disciplinarian and child.

A behavior log may contain any or all of the following: 
  • Child’s name
  • Period of monitoring 
  • Date of observation 
  • Time of observation 
  • Behavior observed 
  • Description of the specific disruptive incident
  • What was happening prior to the disruption
  • Actions taken to resolve the problematic behavior
  • Comments (e.g., possible interventions that were not used that may have helped the child to calm down, steps to take in the future to help avoid the problematic behavior, steps taken that seemed to have some positive effect, steps taken that seemed to worsen the situation, etc.).

From the above recorded information, the parent and/or teacher needs to study the "behavior trend" carefully before making any conclusions or recommendations. If insufficient data is collected, more observation should be made instead jumping to a hasty solution. This type of study is usually long-term (3-4 months) with a careful eye for details.

==> Videos for Parents of Children and Teens with ASD


Help for the Easily Agitated Child on the Autism Spectrum: Tips for Parents

“My son with high functioning autism will get so upset and frustrated to the point of meltdown. He becomes very aggressive and there is no calming him down or discussing things with him once he has crossed this line. And to make matters worse, there is no rhyme or reason to his explosions. What upsets him to no end one day doesn’t seem to bother him on another day. This makes it very hard to predict what’s coming. Help!”

Due to the associated symptoms, kids with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger’s (AS) are more likely to become agitated than “typical” kids. There are numerous issues related to the disorder that may contribute to your son’s distress, for example:
  • Difficulty handling changes to the daily routine
  • Fatigue
  • Impaired communicating skills
  • Strong reliance on fixed routines
  • Over-sensitivity to stimuli through the five senses 
  • Stress in the environment
  • Tendency to be clumsy
  • Difficulty identifying, understanding, and describing his emotions
  • Tendency to misinterpret or misunderstand gestures and facial expressions
  • Trouble interacting with others  
  • Underlying behavioral, developmental, or health conditions (e.g., ADHD)

Also, your son may be more likely to become agitated if you react too strongly to his behavior or give in to his demands.

All kids get frustrated and act-out from time to time, and there is no reason why young people on the autism spectrum should refrain from this stage of development. But how do you know whether or not an agitated child's behavior is "normal"? When the behavior escalates to the point of violence, is it still just simple agitation, or are there deeper issues that need to be looked at?

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management

Agitation and resultant “problematic behavior” (i.e., the child’s way of coping with distress) are very common problems in HFA and AS. The child may appear to go into a state of rage or anxiety for no apparent reason (e.g., screaming, crying, resisting contact with others, pushing others away, etc.).

Parents often have great difficulty calming their HFA or AS child once he or she has reached the boiling point. The youngster may seem inconsolable, and the episode can last a long time – and can even involve of more aggressive behaviors (e.g., hitting, biting, pinching, etc.). Also, the “emotional release” that typically accompanies the end of “throwing a fit” for non-autistic kids rarely occurs in the HFA or AS child. Similar episodes of anxiety and anger may be seen all through childhood, adolescence – and even into adulthood.

Paying attention to the things that trigger your son’s frustration can help you act before his emotions escalate beyond the point where he can control them. Identifying the cause of the behavior is very important. There is ALWAYS some “yet-to-be-unidentified” trigger that brings on difficult behavior.

As with such behavior in all young people, there are a number of possible causes. There may be underlying reasons (e.g., feeling upset, anxious or angry), and immediate triggers (e.g., being told to do something). But with kids on the autism spectrum, problematic behavior is usually directed by frustration and agitation.

Disruption of Routine and Structure—

As with most children on the autism spectrum, your son most likely relies heavily on ritualistic behaviors and structure. Structure is a method that helps him to define the world in terms of set rules and explanations, which in turn helps him function. Most kids on the spectrum find their own methods of imposing structure and maintaining consistency. They need this structure because the world is confusing to them; the world is complex and almost impossible to understand. The information your son receives through his senses is no doubt overwhelming and hard to bring together into a strong whole. Also, if he has a learning disability, it makes it especially hard to apply cognitive skills to all these areas at once.

When some form of structure or routine is disrupted, the world becomes confusing and overwhelming again (e.g., feeling homesick, losing a comforting toy when feeling alone, starting a new school year, etc.). This disruption of structure may be obvious to you (e.g., having a collection of objects disturbed, being made to go a different way to school, getting up at an unusual hour), or it may be hidden (e.g., subtle changes in the environment which the youngster is used to). Some of these triggers may be out of the control of your son, and some may be avoidable.

Problems with Communication—

Most children on the autism spectrum have difficulty understanding others and communicating with them. Thus, frustration, anger and anxiety often build-up. Also, their problematic behaviors often directly serve as a form of communication (i.e., they may act-out because a particular need is not being met, but they don’t know how to use their words to get what they need). Natural tantrums (e.g., in response to changes in routine, or requests to do something the child does not want to do) may well become usual over-reactions in the eyes of parents.

When to Seek Help from a Professional—

HFA and AS children who continue to act-out their frustration in destructive ways after the age of 4 usually need outside help learning to deal with their negative emotions. Problematic behaviors that continue (or start) during the school years may be a sign of other issues (e.g., learning difficulties, social skills deficits, etc.).

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management

Talk with a health professional if difficult behavior frequently lasts longer than 15 minutes, occurs more than 3 times a day, or is more aggressive. This may indicate that your son has an underlying medical, emotional, or social problem that needs attention. These are not considered normal child tantrums. Problematic behaviors can include biting, hair pulling, head-banging or inflicting self-injury, hitting, kicking, pinching, scratching, throwing or breaking things, etc.

It's especially important to seek outside assistance if:
  • Your son’s outbursts occur more than 3 times a day
  • They frequently last longer than 15 minutes
  • He hurts himself, other people, or objects when he is agitated
  • His behavior does not improve after 4 years of age
  • You have serious concerns about his destructive behavior
  • You have problems handling his behavior
  • You have concerns that you might accidently hurt your son when trying to hold him back or calm him down
  • You need help with learning to cope with your own feelings during his outbursts

This is where support is needed both in the form of direct interventions related to the behaviors, and in advising and helping you manage episodes in ways that can be applied at home. These difficulties can be improved slowly through education and other interventions.

In the meantime, you can help by making an effort to manage the environment so that your son is more comfortable (e.g., providing structure, avoiding distracting information when engaging in tasks, allowing personal space where necessary, etc.). When your son acts-out, this is his way of trying to communicate his needs. Therefore, the cause of the behavior (i.e., an unmet need) must first be identified before teaching and developing other means of communicating.

Think like this: “My child is behaving badly. So, he is trying to tell me something through his behavior, because he hasn’t learned to use his words yet. What might he need in this moment? How can we use this episode as a learning opportunity? And how can I help my child find the words to describe what’s going on as an alternative to acting-out his feelings?”

==> Crucial information on how to help your child deal with frustration...

More resources for parents of children and teens with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's:

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook

==> Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Audio Book

==> Parenting System that Reduces Problematic Behavior in Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism


The Functional Analytic Approach to Behavior Modification for Kids on the Autism Spectrum

A “functional analytic approach” to developing effective behavioral modification in children and teens with ASD utilizes a process known as “functional behavioral assessment.” 
Functional behavioral assessment involves employing a variety of strategies (e.g., child-centered planning, treatment team meetings, systematic interviews, direct observations, etc.) to formulate hypotheses about why a child behaves the way she does.

In order to accomplish a functional behavioral assessment, several assumptions about behavior must be regarded as valid:

• Behavior has communicative value. Though it is generally accepted that all behavior has communicative value, it is important to remember that children with ASD generally do not have a behavioral intent to disrupt classroom settings, but instead problematic behaviors may arise from other needs (e.g., self-protection in stressful situations). Although children with the disorder typically have excellent language skills, their ability to use communication effectively in a social context may be limited. Inappropriate behavior may be the only available communicative response to difficult situations until other options are learned.

• Behavior is context related. All children demonstrate some level of variability in behavior across different settings. This is just as true for children on the autism spectrum. In fact, understanding how the environment impacts a child is one of the chief outcomes of a functional behavioral assessment. This information has particular value for preventive methods or to set the stage for teaching alternative skills. Effective behavioral support is contingent on understanding the child, the context in which he operates, and the reason(s) for behavior.

• Behavior is functional. Behavior serves a specific purpose(s). For children with the disorder, these functions may be expressed in highly idiosyncratic and often complex verbal ways.

Though there is some disagreement about the best way to conduct a comprehensive functional behavioral assessment, most clinicians are in agreement about the key outcomes of such an assessment. They are:
  • identification of the consequences that maintain behavior (i.e., once a behavior starts, what keeps it going over time?)
  • description of situations most commonly associated with the occurrence of problematic behavior
  • clear and unambiguous description of the problematic behavior(s)

A functional behavioral assessment should provide information that:
  • guides the development of supports that are logically connected
  • increases understanding of the child
  • describes the physical and social setting(s) in which the behavior occurs
  • describes the problem behavior itself

Once an understanding of problem behaviors is achieved, it is helpful to come up with a behavioral modification plan. A good behavioral modification plan includes focus on:
  • expanding beyond consequence strategies (e.g., time outs)
  • preventing the occurrence of problem behavior
  • teaching socially acceptable alternatives to problem behavior (especially alternatives that serve the same purpose as the problem behavior and therefore are more likely to be adopted by the child)

Next, the clinician should use a comprehensive format for outlining multi-component supports that addresses the following:
  1. Antecedent/setting event strategies
  2. Alternative skills training
  3. Consequence strategies
  4. Long-term prevention

Let’s look at each of these areas:

1. Antecedent/setting event strategy: The primary goals of this strategy are to prevent or reduce the likelihood of problem behavior and to set the stage for learning more adaptive skills over time. For example, many children on the spectrum have difficulty with noisy, crowded environments. Therefore, the newly arrived middle school student who becomes physically aggressive in the hallway during passing periods may need an accommodation of leaving class a minute or two early to avoid the congestion which provokes this behavior. Over time, the student may learn to negotiate the hallways simply by being more accustomed to the situation, or by being given specific instruction or support.

Key issues to address when discussing this strategy are:
  • What can be done to eliminate the problem (i.e., the antecedent condition)?
  • What can be done to modify the situation if it can’t be eliminated entirely?
  • Will the antecedent strategy need to be permanent, or is it a temporary "fix" which allows the student to increase skills needed to manage the situation in the future?

The importance of using antecedent strategies should not be underestimated. Kids on the spectrum often have to manage a great amount of personal stress. Striking a balance of short and long term accommodations through manipulating antecedents to problem behavior is often critical in setting the stage for later skill development.

2. Alternative Skills Training: The primary purpose of this strategy is to teach skills that replace problem behavior by serving the same purpose as the challenging behavior. For example, a student with the disorder may have trouble "entering" into a kickball game by asking to play and instead simply inserts himself into the game, thereby offending the other players and risking exclusion. Instead, the youngster can be coached on how and when to ask to enter into the game.

Here is a particularly useful framework for guiding efforts towards teaching alternative skills by examining the following three categories:

A. Equivalence training
B. General skills training
C. Self-regulation training

A. Equivalence training requires support persons to ask the following sequential questions:
  • How will alternative skills be taught?
  • What alternative skill(s) will be taught which serves the same function as the problem behavior?
  • What is the function of the problem behavior?

B. General “skills training” requires asking the following sequential questions:
  • How will alternative skills be taught?
  • What other academic, social, or communication skills will be taught that will prevent the problem behavior from occurring?
  • What skill deficits are contributing to the problem behavior?

C. Self-regulation training requires asking the following sequential questions:
  • How will skills be taught?
  • What events appear to be contributing to the child's anger or frustration in reference to the problem behavior?
  • What self-control skills will be taught to help the child deal with difficult/frustrating situations?

One particularly relevant means to teach alternative skills is through the use of self-management strategies. Self-management is a procedure in which autistic children are taught to discriminate their own target behavior and record the occurrence or absence of that target behavior. Self-management is a particularly useful technique to assist children to achieve greater levels of independent or even inter-dependent functioning across many settings and situations.

By learning self-management techniques, children can become more self-directed and less dependent on continuous supervision and control. Instead of teaching situation specific behaviors, self-management teaches a more general skill that can be applied in an unlimited number of settings.

Self-management strategies have particular relevance and immediate utility for children on the autism spectrum. The basic steps for teaching self-management are:
  • clearly define the target behavior
  • identify child reinforcers
  • design or choose a self-management method or recording device
  • teach the child to use the self-management device
  • teach self-management independence

It is also important for teachers to monitor their own behavior when working with "special needs" students. Each time a teacher reprimands a child for misbehavior, an opportunity to reframe the moment in terms of the child's need to develop alternative skills through a means such as self-management training may be lost.

3. Consequence strategies: Though consequences have traditionally been framed in terms of how they reduce problem behavior as a form of discipline, reframing consequences in terms of “reinforcement for achieving alternative behaviors” should be the focus for ASD kids. One way to reframe the use of consequences is to develop them as “planned responses to instructional situations.” This shifting of the use of consequences does not mean that negative consequences should be eliminated (especially in moments of crisis), but that multiple negative consequences are likely to heighten anxiety levels for the child and compete with teaching alternative skills.

4. Long-term prevention: In the presence of immediate behavioral concerns, it may be difficult to come up with a long-term approach to a child's educational program. However, it is critical that plans for supporting a child over the long-term be outlined from the beginning. Many supports with the most relevance for kids on the spectrum (e.g., specific accommodations, peer supports, social skills, self-management strategies, etc.) must be viewed as procedures that are developed progressively as the youngster moves through school. These are not “crisis management” techniques, but the very strategies that can decrease crisis situations from developing.

Those involved with the child will need to collaborate on a behavioral modification plan that is clear and easily implemented. Once developed, the plan will need to be monitored across settings. Inconsistencies in expectations and behaviors will only serve to heighten the challenges demonstrated by the child.

Resources for parents of children and teens on the autism spectrum:

==> Videos for Parents of Children and Teens with ASD


Finding Hidden Meaning Behind Problematic Behaviors in Kids with ASD

"Question: How to know what triggers my son's (high functioning autistic) difficult behavior? Thanks in advance!"

Many parents of children with ASD - Level 1 [High-Functioning Autism] have discovered that some of their youngster’s behaviors make no obvious sense and do not serve any clear purpose. But when these children engage in “odd” or confusing behavior, they are also sending the parent hidden clues about things that are important to them. Thus, it’s the parent’s job is to break the code so she can interpret the clues.

By becoming more like a “detective,” parents can begin to notice coded messages they didn’t see before, and as a result, find more effective ways to help their “special needs” youngster. Becoming a good detective also helps parents respond more carefully to peculiar behaviors so they don’t unintentionally reinforce or reward them.

Parents of autistic children can begin to develop “investigator skills” by recording problematic behaviors, similar to how Jane Goodall studied chimpanzees. For example: 
  • Is the child attempting to avoid a demanding task?
  • What activities or interactions take place just prior to the problematic behavior? 
  • Does the same thing often happen first?
  • What time do these events most often happen?
  • Are there any settings where the behavior does not occur?
  • In what settings is the behavior observed? 
  • Is the behavior problem associated with certain social or environmental conditions? 
  • What usually happens immediately after the behavior? 
  • Who is present when the behavior occurs?

 ==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism

Most difficult behaviors are triggered by an event. Just as you might suddenly feel thirsty as you walk past a lemonade stand, there are “triggers” in your youngster’s life that elicit certain behaviors. Use a diary to try to identify these triggers for your youngster’s most challenging behaviors. Instead of getting upset with your child when he or she acts-out, look for how the context is out of synch with him or her. View the incident as an opportunity to learn more about your child.

Here is a good example of items to list in your diary:

Behavioral Investigation—

Date: ______
  1. Describe the behavior of concern: _______________
  2. How can I tell the behavior is about to start? _______________
  3. How intense is the behavior? _______________
  4. How long does it last? _______________
  5. How often does the behavior occur? _______________
  6. What behavior(s) might serve the same function for my child that is appropriate within the social/environmental context? _______________
  7. What conditions are most likely to precipitate (“set-off”) the behavior? _______________
  8. What does my child get or avoid? _______________
  9. What is happening when the behavior occurs? _______________
  10. What is the likely function (intent) of the behavior (i.e., why do I think my child behaves this way)? _______________
  11. What usually happens after the behavior? _______________
  12. When/where is the behavior most/least likely to occur? _______________
  13. With whom is the behavior most/least likely to occur? _______________
  14. What other information might contribute to creating an effective behavioral intervention plan (e.g., under what conditions does the behavior not occur)? _______________

Cognitive, Behavioral, and Moral Inflexibility in Kids on the Autism Spectrum 

Here are some crucial things to consider when doing your investigation:

1. As with any child, being hungry, thirsty, or tired can make your youngster grouchy. A chronic illness or low-grade infection can cause behavioral issues as well. Try to discover any – and all – possible sources of pain (e.g., abscesses, broken bones, bruises, cuts and splinters, gut, infections, acid reflux, sprains, teeth, etc.).

2. Consider sensory and emotional regulation. Your youngster’s sensory experiences are very different from the “typical” child. He is likely easily overwhelmed by information coming in through the senses (e.g., loud noises) and isn’t getting enough input from the senses responsible for self-awareness and regulation. We all know about the five senses: taste, touch, smell, sound, and sight. But there are two additional senses that are important to understand: the vestibular sense (controls balance) and proprioception (the sense of one’s body in space). In many autistic children, some of the information from these senses is too little, too much, or distorted –  leading to feelings of anxiety, physical pain, or disengagement. As a result, the child may “act-out” behaviorally as a way to cope.

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with High-Functioning Autism

3. Coordination problems can contribute to stress and behavior issues. For example, as anyone who has ever been picked last for a team knows, gym class can be nerve-wracking. If your youngster has trouble undoing zippers or buttons, the short time allotted for bathroom breaks or locker room changes can add tremendous pressure. Also, if the child walks awkwardly, negotiating a crowded hallway between classes is anxiety-producing. These issues often influence “acting-out” behaviors that, unfortunately, may result in the child receiving some form of punishment.

4. Peer-rejection is a big contributor to difficult behaviors. For example, maybe your son realizes he has no friends, so recess time is particularly tough for him. Also, do some investigation to see if bullying or teasing is an issue.

5. Attention-span difficulties can influence behavior, resulting in unwarranted punishment from teachers. For example, your youngster may “tune-out” during class because the teacher or the subject matter isn’t engaging enough. Talk with your child’s teacher if this appears to be an issue.

6. Some problematic behaviors, especially those that seem abrupt or particularly odd, may be due to seizures. If you think this could be an issue, keep a very careful record of what you observe. Also, see if your youngster’s teacher has similar observations.

7. Changes in home-life can contribute to behavior problems (e.g., health crisis, job change, move, new sibling, mom and dad going through a divorce, etc.). Often times, well-meaning parents think their “special needs” child is handling everything fine, so there is no reason to be concerned. But if parents are stressed about something, chances are their youngster will be, too – especially if she is powerless to do anything about it.

8. Try to identify any food sensitivities or allergies that could be troubling your youngster. Look for the signs of a problem in this area (e.g., red/flushed cheeks or ears, diarrhea within a few hours of eating a particular food, etc.). Food sensitivity is often one of the biggest contributors to “mysterious” and sudden changes in behavior.

In summary, rather than viewing your child’s behavior as “misbehavior,” look attentively for the clues that he or she is sending by conducting your own investigation. With a little good detective work, parents can narrow down exactly what initiates certain unwanted behaviors. Then, once the problem has been identified, parents are in a much better position to employ effective prevention and intervention strategies.

Raising Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Parents' Grief and Guilt

Some parents grieve for the loss of the youngster they   imagined  they had. Moms and dads have their own particular way of dealing with the...