Replacing the Roladex: Changing Behaviour in Autism

Last week I described what I believe to be the tenacious and creative genius of students and children with autism. It has been my experience to witness my own autistic son and my students persistently sift through an assortment of behaviours that have proven successful in gaining a desired response from us at some time or other. I am convinced that a hidden Roloadex of behavioural responses keeps us on our toes and accountable for hearing the message being communicated! When one action doesn’t garner our attention then there are many more to choose from! 

So what does this mean for those of us trying desperately to hear the message that behaviour is communicating? 

It means that we need to be sure we do our homework. 

We may need to conduct the appropriate Functional Behaviour Assessments to figure out what the behaviour is telling us. Does the child want to get something tangible? Does he want your attention? Is she trying to avoid something? Why? Is the task too hard? Too easy? Unmotivating? Is there a sensory problem that we cannot recognize?

Then it is our job to attend to the message. We may need to:

Replace less desirable behaviours with a positive response that will produce the same result the child was seeking. Perhaps, we could teach the student to request a time out or break using a card or signal rather than cursing when he is feeling overwhelmed. 

Establish motivation for the individual (threats are NOT motivating). Perhaps, using the individual’s interest in the materials for teaching would increase attention and ‘buy in’ to the task? Provide an opportunity for the student to share his knowledge of an interest in 

Teach new skills such as how to choose a reinforcer from a choice board and how to use relaxation strategies to self -calm. Use video modelling to teach individuals with autism how to participate in group work. Perhaps a prerequisite math skill needs to be reviewed individually before a new concept is introduced to the class.

Make the environment more autism friendly by providing a quiet work area or dimming the lights. Indicate in a checklist each step of a task and what reward will occur as a consequence of task completion. Provide short breaks and show these to the individual on a checklist or schedule. Organize space or tasks with labels and cues (and practice) so that it is clear what happens when and where things belong. 

Kids with autism do not need their parents or teachers to be autism experts. They need compassionate humans who are genuinely keen to ‘hear’ what their actions say and respond in ways that promote intellectual, emotional and social learning. 

Jenn  🙂

 respect the pupil

Copyright 2014 Autism Aspirations


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