ABA Therapy

Autism: Recognizing & Managing Challenging Behaviors

Did you know that a big part of your child’s behavior, positive or challenging, is a reaction to something that is happening in their immediate environment?


Sometimes we inadvertently reinforce challenging behaviors but knowing the ABCs can help prevent inadvertent reinforcement. By recognizing the ABCs of behavior, you may be able to help prevent and better de-escalate challenging behaviors with your child. 

 A) Antecedent- This is what happens just before the behavior to provoke it.  

B)  Behavior-This is what you can see your child doing. 

C) Consequence-This is how you react the behavior.  The consequence will determine whether or not that behavior will reoccur. 

When thinking about how to intervene your child’s behavior, it is important to look at why the behavior is occurring, also known as identifying thefunction.  This is much more important than what the behavior looks like.  By recognizing which function the challenging behavior serves, you can begin to understand how to intervene.  The four main functions of behavior are:

 

Sensory - These behaviors are occurring because they feel good.  Stereotypy, or self-stimulatory behavior, is a common sensory behavior that children with autism often engage in. 

 

Escape - These are behaviors occur when your child wants to get out of doing something they don’t want to do.  This is often the root cause of difficulty with transitions, with which many children with autism have difficulty.

 

Attention - These behaviors occur to gain attention from somebody.  Attention-based behaviors can be easily inadvertently reinforced, so it is important to remember that negative attention is still attention!

 

Tangible - These are behaviors that your child engages in when they are told they can’t have something they want or if something they like is taken from them. By identifying common things that provoke behavior, we can arrange the environment to prevent behaviors in the first place.  By knowing why your child is engaging in a challenging behavior, you can begin to understand how to respond to your child. 

 

General Preventative Strategies

  • Give your child choices throughout the day.  This gives them a sense of control in their environment.  You can give them a “choice” when there may not actually be one.  An example of this is, “Which shoe do you want to put on first?” or “Do you want to go potty in 2 minutes or 4 minutes?”

  • If you would like for your child to do something, present it as a choice via instruction.  It is important that instructions are followed through. An example of this is, “Are you ready to put on your shoes?” vs. “It’s time to put your shoes on.” 

  • Prepare your child for transitions.  Instead of abruptly telling them that it is time to transition away from a preferred task, give them a visual or verbal countdown

  • Reward the positives!  Point out when you see your child making good choices.  Throw a party if they engage in a difficult and desirable behavior.  Some children with autism may not be motivated by social praise.  If this is the case, allow your child time with a favorite toy or sensory input (tickles, hugs, squeezes etc.)

  • Encourage flexibility!  Many children with autism can be rigid, so encouraging your child to play with different toys, try different foods, and pointing out when unexpected changes occur, can help prevent challenging behavior related to rigidity

  • Make sure your child has meaningful breaks throughout the day to engage in preferred activities

  • Teach appropriate behaviors when your child is calm and not engaging in challenging behavior 

 

General Consequence Strategies

 

 Sensory

  • Give your child something similar to do/have instead of the inappropriate behavior.  An example of this may be to offer your child a chewy snack instead of putting toys in their mouth

Escape

  • Be sure to follow through when an instruction is given

  • Validate your child’s frustration and let them know that you understand that they are upset, but they do need to complete whatever task is at hand

  • Try not to force your child to comply.  Have them complete the task at hand when they are calm and ready

  • Remember what the original instruction was and stick with it

  • Reward your child as soon as they complete the non-preferred task

Attention

  • Ignore attention-seeking behavior as much as possible.  Sometimes this is not 100% doable.  If you must provide your child with attention, minimize verbal attention and remain neutral

  • Do not show frustration or anger.  Children with autism sometimes think this is “funny” and may not have the social awareness to truly understand your frustration.  Emotions should be taught when your child is calm and regulated

 

Tangible

  • Not allowing the child to have access until they ask calmly or show that they are calm (if they do not have the language to ask)

  • If you are unable to provide your child access to the preferred item, acknowledge their emotion and their feelings

  • Do not go back on your word.  If you told your child that they cannot have an item, do not give your child that item, especially if they engage in challenging behavior

 

 

Tips provided by Lumiere therapist, Jacqueline M., M.A., BCBA, (Lead Board Certified Behavior Analyst)

 

 

Does My Child Have Autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is characterized by deficits in three keys areas: social interaction, communication with others, and repetitive or rigid behaviors.  These impairments can present themselves in a variety of ways.  

Lumiere Children’s Therapy Instagram Page

Lumiere Children’s Therapy Instagram Page

What are signs of autism in my child?  

Social Deficits 

Some social deficits that may be noticed with your little one, include:

·      Lack of smiling or joyful response to a parent by 6 months of age

·      Not responding to their name by looking or orienting their body in the direction their name was called, by 1 year

·      Not waving “bye-bye” by 1 year

·      No pretend or “make believe” play by 18-24 months

·      Preference to play by themselves/no desire to interact with peers by 2 ½ years

 

Communication Deficits

Some communication deficits that may be noticed with your little one, include:

·     Not making or sharing sounds with others by 9 months of age

·      Lack of pointing to items of interest by 14-16 months

·      No regularly used words by 16-18 months

·      Lack of use of 2-word utterances by age 2

 

Repetitive or Rigid Behavior

The occurrence of repetitive or rigid behavior at any time during development can be cause for concern.  Some of these behaviors include:

·     Stereotypy - the persistent repetition of movement of the body or of an object, is a big indicator of autism.  Examples of stereotypy include, but are not limited to, repetitive movement of the hands in front of the face, hand-flapping, following objects or body parts with a repetitive eye gaze, lining up toys (and becoming very upset if the line is broken in any way), and/or pulling at the hair or hair twirling

·     Echolalia - repeating back what was said to them in a non-functional way or repeating lines from movies, commercials or other outlets that have been heard previously in a non-functional context 

·     Extreme duress expressed to a change in routine or schedule; a need for “sameness” in daily routines

·     Difficulties with transitions

 

It is important to note that any of these deficits in isolation does not mean that a little one may have autism.  Typically, a combination of these deficits will be present and when combined, there may be cause for concern.  Also, loss of any skills at any point in development is a red flag and indicator.  Examples of this include, a child who used to wave “bye-bye” but no longer does, used to babble but stopped, used to respond to their name or used to speak a few words but no longer uses them.  

What do I do if I think my child may have autism? 

If your little one is displaying a combination of these behaviors or has lost any skills, please consult your pediatrician. The pediatrician should then refer to a specialist, including a developmental pediatrician, developmental psychologist, or developmental neurologist who is qualified to perform a full diagnostic evaluation.   

My child has been diagnosed with autism (ASD). What are the next steps? 

First of all, breathe. You’ve got this! There is a lot of information to take in when a diagnosis of autism is determined.  Often times, recommendations are given for up to 30 hours per week for intensive ABA therapy which leaves parents thinking, “Where can I fit 30 hours of therapy into my child’s schedule?!”  

What is ABA therapy and how can it fit into my schedule?

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is the scientific approach to teaching socially significant behavior by the use of behavior principles and understanding the variables responsible for lasting change. For young learners, quality ABA therapy programs focus on family-centered programming that targets pre-academic, social, communication, and self-help skills.  ABA also focuses on decreasing challenging behavior while increasing positive behaviors.  One goal of ABA is to give your child the tools they will need to feel comfortable in the community and surroundings.  This is done in a variety of ways.  

Research shows that ABA therapy is one of the most effective treatments for teaching those with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Although ABA is a critical therapy for your child, it often is just one component of a multidisciplinary treatment plan.  ABA targets a wide array of skills, however, remains behavioral in nature so other therapies including physical, speech, occupational therapies may also be beneficial to your child.  Using a collaborative and multidisciplinary approach is just one effective method to treatment.

ABA therapy can be conducted across environments. Often, therapy will occur at a center, at your child’s daycare, and/or in the home.  An ABA therapist may be present during family outings to the grocery store, park, or other activity to teach appropriate behaviors in these settings. Scheduling can be flexible and can even occur on the weekends.    

Lumiere Children’s Therapy focuses on naturalistic instruction, or play-based learning for young children and offers a multidisciplinary approach to therapy, with a customized treatment plan created just for your child. If you need help with your child’s ASD diagnosis, contact us today so we can help.


 

References

Cooper, John O., Heron, Timothy E.Heward, William L.. (2007) Applied behavior analysis /Upper 

Saddle River, N.J. : Pearson/Merrill-Prentice Hall,

Green, G.  Mansfield, R. Geckeler, E.  Gardenier, N.   Anderson, J. Holcomb, W. &  Sanchez, J. 

(2007)Stereotypy in young children with autism and typically developing children, Research in Developmental Disabilities. 28 (2007) 266–277. 

Leaf, J.  Leaf, R. McEachin, J.  Taubman, M. Rosales, S. Ross, R. Smith, T. & Weiss, M. J. (2015). 

Applied Behavior Analysis is a Science and, Therefore, Progressive.  Journal of Autism 

Dev Disorders.   (46)720–731.

Ozonof, S. et al. (2010) A Prospective Study of the Emergence of Early Behavioral Signs of 

Autism.  Journal of  American Academy of Child and AdolescentPsychiatry .  49(3): 256–66.