Family members, teachers, therapists, and others interested in the well-being of individuals with autism often come to the conclusion that effective behavior management is an elusive goal. We often find ourselves making decisions throughout the day, consciously or unconsciously, about the most effective response to any given behavior. We either ENCOURAGE a behavior, or we learn to TOLERATE it, or we realize we need to IGNORE it, or we develop a plan to SHAPE it, or we take immediate steps to STOP it.
+ ENCOURAGE – It is always exciting to see our friends with autism take a step forward by speaking their first word or learning to tolerate a change in schedule or initiating contact with a friend. We try not to overwhelm our friends with praise, but we do like to find ways to let them know we noticed and to encourage them to continue this newfound skill.
+ TOLERATE – We learn to tolerate some behaviors because we recognize that we cannot micro-manage every single detail of our friend’s life. For example, some families or residential care staff choose to tolerate rocking or obsession with a ragged blanket or refusal to eat foods with certain textures.
+ IGNORE – We learn to pick our battles, a strategy that requires us to ignore some behaviors that might be deemed inappropriate. For example, if we are working to decrease screaming and throwing items, we might ignore behaviors like kicking the leg of a chair or biting fingernails. If a youngster is making some efforts to remain in his chair and participate in a group activity, we might choose to ignore his repetitively murmuring, “Time to say goodbye.”
+ SHAPE – Consciously or unconsciously, we are constantly involved in shaping new habits, responses, or skills. Although we may be tempted to force immediate change, nagging rarely works. Patient, gradual shaping is usually the better strategy.
+ STOP – Sometimes, of course, we must take swift action to stop a behavior. We respond immediately, calmly, and firmly when a person with autism is in danger of hurting themselves or another person, when their behavior in public is extremely inappropriate, or when their behavior is destructive.
In tomorrow’s podcast, we will explore the interactive, circular nature of these components of effective behavior management. Meanwhile, we welcome your observations and descriptions of challenging behaviors. Just click on the comments button or send us an e-mail: talk@FAQautism.com.
NOTE TO READERS AND LISTENERS: 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. Feel free to send me an email with your thoughts or challenging situations or innovative solution. Send email to talk@FAQautism.com And don’t forget to check out our website for a wealth of ideas and a glimpse into the world of autism. http://FAQautism.com