Our team of Board Certified Behavior Analysts specializes in enhancing communication, social, and daily living skills for children with autism. We also help parents with challenging behaviors.
Below are some tips to help prevent problem behavior with children on the spectrum.
1. Avoid specific situations, people, or settings.
Sometimes, the best way to prevent problem behavior is to simply avoid specific situations.
Many moms will tell you that they limit trips to places that involve waiting in line. Others avoid restaurants that trigger their child with ASD.
Sometimes specific people or settings are antecedents for the problem behavior.
For example, specific friends may cause your child on the spectrum to have difficulty playing appropriately.
A child may behave in math class but will act out in a science class.
2. Change the way you ask or respond
When given a direction, many children on the spectrum get agitated and even aggressive. Many act out when they are told “no.”
Consider using humor or providing a choice when making a request.
Giving your child a notice that he will need to stop what he is doing in five minutes can also help.
3. Difficulty with Transitions?
Many parents of children of the spectrum relate to the problem of difficult transitions. A child can be performing a task beautifully but get stuck in their thinking when there is a change in schedule.
A helpful strategy is to use pictures, written lists, or timers. We call these visual supports. They prove to be a helpful ABA strategy that is commonly used.
First-Then boards are also helpful visuals that give your child a sense of control of the situation. They normally include a laminated strip of paper with icons portraying the first (non-preferred activity) and then (preferred activity.)
Timers also help give your child an understanding of how much time he has for each activity.
This allows your child to see the schedule ahead of time. He can understand what will happen next.
It provides a sense of predictability and promotes flexibility and independence with the tasks of everyday living.
4. Break it down- Step by Step
Sometimes your child can handle specific situations for a short time. As time passes, you will notice that the behavior may deteriorate.
Instead of entirely avoiding these situations, a smart idea is to limit the time spent in that particular setting.
Others find it helpful to limit the number of errands they run with their child. The child sometimes can handle a single trip to the grocery store while multiple errands prove to be unsuccessful.
5. Premack Principle- Switch the Order
The Premack principle is the behavior analytic term for if you do this then you get that.
The classic example is grandma telling her grandson that there no dessert until he finishes his vegetables.
This strategy is especially helpful for kids that have a hard time stopping an enjoyable activity when asked to comply with a direction.
For example, a child may become aggressive when his mother asks him to shut the TV to do his homework. The parent can switch the order. The child does his homework before having access to the preferred activity of watching TV.
If your child does well with visuals a first-then board can prove to be helpful.
6. Precursors- Respond to Early Signals
Most parents are experts at the early signs of the problem.
We all know the “look” in our child’s eyes or other signals when they are becoming more irritated.
When we intervene early on and prompt them back on task or offer them some extra help to help them quickly succeed with the task at hand, it can help prevent problem behavior.
Parents sometimes also remove the child from a stressful situation to help him calm down. When you start seeing your child’s behavior winding up, it may be the right time to leave the playground.
7. Address Setting Events
Setting events are general conditions or situations that affect the child’s behavior.
Possible setting events include being tired, hungry, or worried about being separated from a parent (i.e. problem behavior at school drop off).
For example, if loud music is playing in the background and the child unravels into a meltdown. The routine request could be considered the antecedent, but the setting event (background noise) likely can play a role in the child’s behavior.
8. Control the Environment
Another simple way to prevent problem behavior is to control the environment. This includes putting locks on the cabinets, keeping dangerous items out of reach.
Another example is keeping the doors of your house locked to prevent elopement (child leaving the house.)