Developing effective strategies for dealing with difficult behaviors is challenging at best. Autism, by its very nature, spans a vast spectrum of issues, so there is no single approach or type of intervention that works for every person. In fact, a strategy that works for an individual one day may be ineffective for that same individual the next week. So teachers, family members, therapists, and others interested in the well-being of individuals with autism are always developing new strategies or revising existing strategies. This podcast overviews an eight-step procedure for developing effective strategies for addressing difficult behaviors.
Step 1. BE A DETECTIVE. Take a close look at the frequency and causes of difficult behaviors. Pinpoint specific behaviors. For example, you can’t develop an effective strategy for “He just drives me crazy because he never listens to me and he just refuses to follows directions.” But you can address this behavior goal: To follow, within five minutes, the one-step verbal and picture-cued direction to put his clothes in the laundry with no more than two prompts.
Step 2. REPLACE DIFFICULT BEHAVIORS. Find alternatives for disruptive, hurtful, and inappropriate behaviors. For example, if a person throws every item he touches, keep fragile and heavy items out of reach, avoid playing “throw and catch” games for the time being, and systematically teach the person to “hold tight” then to put the item in your hand or in a box.
Step 3. STATE DESIRED BEHAVIOR. Use positive terms to state the desired behavior explicitly. For example, instead of saying, “I wish you would quit running around the room whenever we are having a snack,” say “Pauline, sit now, please.” Pair visual cues e.g. picture schedules, photo cards, gestures, and/or written words with your spoken direction.
Step 4. MOTIVATE COMPLIANCE. Don’t assume the individual is purposefully misbehaving. Give her a reason to want to pay attention to your words, to change the status quo, and to follow directions.
Step 5. PROVIDE OPPORTUNITIES. Give the individual lots of opportunities to practice new behaviors. Some folks understand scripted role-playing, while others just need natural opportunities to be built into their day until the new response or behavior is a routine habit.
Step 6. BE CONSISTENT. Don’t wait until your patience has run out or until you have enough time and attention to address a behavior. Give a predictable, matter-of-fact, calm response.
Step 7. BE PATIENT. Your new strategy will probably not make difficult behaviors magically disappear. Be patient while new behaviors are shaped one step at a time. Don’t forget to acknowledge and celebrate those little steps.
Step 8. ENJOY LIFE. Don’t forget to nurture laughter, joy, peace, and friendships.
Don’t forget to click on the “Behavior Issues” section of our website to get more details and more ideas for dealing with difficult behaviors.
NOTE to FAQautism.com listeners and readers: I am Cathy Knoll, a board certified music therapist and long-time friend of many folks with autism. At FAQautism.com we are committed to providing free, practical, everyday tips for making life better for people with autism. You can click on a button to send me an email with your thoughts or challenging situations or innovative solutions. Check out our website for a wealth of ideas and a glimpse into the world of autism. www.FAQautism.com