Autism Behavior Strategies and Behavior Modification Techniques

Are you looking for autism behavior strategies and behavior modification techniques to help your child with autism?

Here are some of the behavior issues I see often when I work with families:

  • Hitting
  • Tantrums
  • Self-injurious behaviors
  • Swiping items off the table
  • Crying when not hurt or sick
  • Throwing items
  • Flopping to the floor

These inappropriate behaviors usually occur due to frustration, or because children just don't want to cooperate.

Autism Behavior Strategies May Help

As an ABA Therapist, I have have the opportunity to work with children with autism and their families to implement behavior modification techniques to increase appropriate behaviors and decrease inappropriate behaviors. Here's how it works:

During an ABA therapy session, a child has many opportunities to learn a specific skill and or skills. If a child responds correctly to the SD (what is asked of the child) on that specific step, that behavior is reinforced -- maybe with tickles, a high 5, a treat, or anything tangible the child likes.

We only give the reward when the response is clean, meaning no inappropriate behaviors accompany the response.

If a child starts exhibiting the inappropriate behavior, such as throwing a tantrum when a demand has or has not been put on him/her, we ignore it until it subsides, then give child a direction that he or she has already learned so that reinforcement can happen. Then we move onto whatever is next.

Count and Mand

If a child's behavior is out of control and the child has a way of communicating -- whether its pecs or verbal, we often use a technique called "count and mand."

Count and mand works like this: A child is tantruming maybe because he cannot have something and really wants it. You (the parent or therapist) look away, wait the tantrum out, count to three while holding up your fingers, then have the child mand for an item.

If, while you are counting, the child starts tantruming again, you wait it out again, and start to count again, if you get to three, the child will then mand for something. Counting is done in your head, but be sure to show your fingers to the child.

Walk and Peel

If the behavior (or your frustration level) gets so bad that you need to leave the room, do so. Just make sure your child is safe. That is called "walk and peel." Once the child calms down, you can go back in room and have the child mand for something, in whatever way your child communicates.

If your child needs extra reinforcement while doing table work, then do so by even reinforcing for nice sitting or something. If a child is old enough and understand token boards, that is a way of delaying access to the big reinforce but still being reinforced for correct responses.

When starting an ABA program, reinforcement comes frequently so your child is motivated to learn. But reinforcement should vary -- maybe after one trial, then after 3 trials, then after 2 and so on. This is a good way to ensure your child isn't always expecting it after every trial.

Self-stimulatory Behaviors

Let's talk about self stimulatory behaviors. These can be such things as hand flapping for excitement, tracking, eye closing or gazing, which is usually and avoidance, or bouncing up and down in the chair, just to name a few. If these types of behaviors are not interfering with learning, they are usually ignored or redirected to a more appropriate place, such as hands in lap without verbal and work continues.

If the behavior does interfere, then a behavior treatment plan could be put in place, but that would be determined by the therapists, coordinator and family. Usually with the little ones, inappropriate behaviors occur because they need to understand the expectations and don't, or because do not know how to communicate yet.

Once a child gets in the grove of therapy sessions, those behaviors usually decrease immensely.

Autism Behavior Strategies Success Stories

I would like to share two scenarios I worked through about 12 years ago with two different boys. One was ten years old and the other was twelve.

The twelve year old boy had language skills, but also had some self-injurious behaviors such as hitting himself in the forehead when he became frustrated with a task. Once I saw the behavior start or noticed that it was about to start, I used sight words to work him through it, and I did that at a fast pace.

The idea was to help this boy calm himself down while reading these words. If he did that, and we made it through the 10 words without the behavior reoccurring, he got a small reward. If he started to exhibit the behavior, we started the words from the beginning. This really helped him.

The ten your old boy showed some real aggression towards others. This occurred when he became frustrated. He would lash out at me while we were doing work. This boy had a DRO board made for him, which is differential reinforcement using stickers or tokens.

Here's how we used it. After, say 30 seconds of good behavior, I would verbally reinforce him and give him a sticker. Once he received all 3 tokens, he got a special reward, something small, usually a special edible used just for those situations.

If, during my reinforcement with him, he exhibited any aggression, he did not receive the reinforcement. Once this boy got the idea that by with good behavior he received something good, the aggression went way down and he was motivated to control them.

These are just a couple of examples of how ABA behavior therapy has worked with children with autism. The key is to create a plan and stick with it. Change will not happen overnight in most cases, but if you are consistent, you will likely see results.

I've seen autism behavior strategies work in many cases, and I would like to help you see them work for your family too.

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