Autism: Recognizing & Intervening Challenging Behaviors


Autism: Recognizing & Intervening Challenging Behaviors 

It’s Autism Awareness Month. 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. 

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

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

  3. 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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)


Our approach to ABA therapy for kids diagnosed withAutism Spectrum Disorder
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“Our new move is right around the corner - literally and figuratively! We are so excited to be moving into our new location at nearby NEWCITY next month. Our new location boasts 5,500-sq.ft. of space with three preschool classrooms, five treatment rooms, a designated sensory room and a therapeutic gym. It will also feature an indoor playground with a rock-climbing wall and bike track! For parents’ convenience, curbside drop-off and pick-up will be available with ground-floor entry, as well as validated parking in the NEWCITY complex. Stay tuned for more information on our grand reopening!”


What Our Therapists Can Do For Your Child


Did you know that April is occupational therapy awareness month? We are excited to celebrate and share more insight about our profession. Occupational therapists give people the ability to live their life to the fullest by helping them gain independence in everyday activities that are important to them. Here at Lumiere Children’s Therapy, we focus on helping children learn to PLAY, one of their most important occupations.

We strive to always be the best we can be for our kids and families at Lumiere Children’s Therapy, which is why we are continuing to learn and grow through continuing education and professional development opportunities. Below are just a few examples of what our therapists are trained in and areas we have gained more experience in over the past year:

Zones of Regulation. A curriculum designed to help children regulate their bodies and emotions, improve impulse control, increase body awareness and increase attention.

Sequential Oral Sensory (S.O.S.) approach to feeding assessment and treatment. S.O.S. is a play-based, non-judgemental approach to feeding that uses natural reinforcers to encourage food exploration. It is designed for kids with feeding sensitivities and weight gain/growth difficulties and takes into account a wide variety of skills, including posture, motor, sensory, learning, and behavior.

Handwriting without Tears.A developmentally-based writing curriculum that addresses all styles of learning, including visual, auditory, tactile and kinesthetic.

Infant Positioning and Handling. Acourse focusing on evidence-based strategies for safe and effective tummy time positions to positively impact future development as well as strategies and treatment routines to maintain and improve function in infants.

Early intervention. Gaining more insight into early intervention, accounting for all aspects of intervention with evaluation outcomes, as well as courses focusing on partnering with families to help make a smooth transition out of early intervention. 

 Through these courses and learning opportunities we are able to provide the best and most current treatment approaches for our children. During the month of April, we are reflecting on how much we have learned by staying up-to-date on evidenced-based practices as well as areas in which we want to continue to grow! We are eager to learn the new and best treatment approaches to help our children be more successful and PLAY! 

One of our OT specialists would love to help your family! If you’re interested in inquiring about any of these methods and would like to schedule an evaluation for your child, please contact us HERE.


When we started out 10 years ago, our VISION was to create, capture and celebrate 100,000 Magic MomentsSM by the year 2020. What are Magic MomentsSM? They are every small step, every little success and tiny milestone met that makes a big impact on the lives of children and families in meeting their family goals.

See some of our Magic MomentsSM here

2019 marks the start of our 11th year in business. Since opening our doors in 2008, we've been celebrating and tracking Magic Moments - and now we'll be sharing them with you here every month. Please see below on how you can share yours with us!

Have a Magic MomentSM you want to share?

Upload a picture or video to your page and tag us @LumiereChild for your chance to be featured on our social media! We are always looking to identify success stories and positive experiences around therapy!

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Thanks to all who came out last month to visit our booth at the Developmental Differences Resource Fair, hosted by the Neighborhood Parents Network (

Our certified therapists had a great time talking to parents and telling them more about our services. We also enjoyed hearing from our Board Certified Behavior Analyst, Jakki, presenting to parents on “Managing Difficult Behaviors”. If you missed the event, check out Jakki's presentation here >


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