Parents of a pre-teen diagnosed with autism realized the scope of behavior issues they are facing. They stated they wanted to avoid constant nagging, and they didn’t want their lives to be ruled by multiple, complex behavior management plans. The parents were looking for ways to prioritize behaviors and to decide which behaviors to tackle first.
Dangerous Behaviors. The first priority, of course, would be behaviors that are dangerous to the individual with autism or those around him. For example, taking off a seat belt and opening the door of the moving car is must be addressed immediately. Other behaviors that require swift action are things like (1) attempting to drink household cleaners, (2) hurtful scratching, biting, or throwing, (3) clearing items off grocery store shelves, or (4) unexpectedly touching or hitting strangers.
Annoying behaviors. Some behaviors are irritating or socially inappropriate or unhealthy in the long run. For example, an individual with autism might loudly hum the same tune for hours, or tear pages from books, or refuse to eat anything except Hershey’s Chocolate bars. These irritating or inappropriate behaviors and others like them can be addressed at some point with a pro-active, easy-to-implement strategy that systematically decreases the inappropriate behavior and increases an appropriate, incompatible behavior.
Inherent Behaviors. Some behaviors are rather inherent in individuals with autism. For example, some of my friends with autism are rather insistent on wearing the same shirt every Thursday, or they have an emotional meltdown if I forget to sing our traditional closing song at the end of a music therapy session. In my humble opinion, we need to weigh carefully the merit of trying to eliminate or discourage behaviors that are inherent in autism.
Age-appropriate behaviors. As odd as it seems, we should actually celebrate when our teen with autism becomes defiant or wants to stay up late and sleep late. It is actually a good sign when our youngsters with autism act like other kids their age.
TIP FOR THE DAY. This is, of course, just a brief overview of different categories of behaviors we might encounter. Just keep in mind that it is unrealistic to assume we can control every single behavior in an attempt to shape “perfect” people. Behavior categories help us develop a realistic plan of action.
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 a confidential email at talk@FAQautism.com with your thoughts or challenging situations or innovative solution. 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