Whether at age four or fourteen or even forty, some of our friends with autism can unexpectedly start displaying assertive or hurtful behaviors after rocking along rather calmly for many months or years. This new phase can be rather overwhelming for families or teachers as they realize they must suddenly develop some plans for addressing the new issues. Let us look at three steps to take immediately.
Step 1. Keep a running list of positive behaviors. We tend to focus on the disruptive or hurtful behaviors, so we need to jot down things a person CAN do. This can include simple things like “drinks from a cup” or “helps take out trash.” A visual record of strengths can be heartening and can help remind us to take time encourage a person rather than always nagging about inappropriate behavior.
Step 2. Keep a list of disruptive, hurtful, and destructive behaviors. You can’t magically transform an agitated person into a perfect angel overnight, but a running record helps you know when and why negative behaviors occur and to figure out how to best handle different situations.This diary also help you prioritize the behaviors. Some are potentially dangerous, so you need to take immediate steps to STOP the behavior right away. But other behaviors are irritating, so you can IGNORE or TOLERATE them for the time being.
Step 3. Change the changeable. You can take some immediate action to remove the catalyst for some behaviors. For example, if your youngster always tears books, only allow him to hold cloth or plastic books. If he puts small items in his mouth, then remove all small objects from his environment. If he screams uncontrollably every time your cell phone rings, change the ring tone or put it on vibrate or beep. If he calms down when he holds a certain blanket or soft toy, then let him keep it with him wherever he goes. If the labels on his clothing irritate him, cut them out. If he loves playing with toy cars, get him a little carry bag to carry kid-proof toy cars with him.
TIP FOR THE DAY: At this point, the most important thing you can do is to take some action. You are NOT going to be able to conquer all problems immediately. And you don’t want to get frustrated and just give up. But you can take these three steps to get started on a long-term plan to address this unexpected new phase in life. Hang in there!
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