With Autism comes unique behavior challenges. Mr. B has been going through...a phase...the last couple of years, and this "phase" has really taken a turn for the worse since he turned 11. Now he's nearly 12, and I knew we had to do something to get a handle on the behavior issues so that the little things didn't turn into big things. The thing is, kids with Autism react differently than typical kids to the same positive/negative reinforcement tricks parents have used for generations. To be honest, what my mom tells me to do that worked for my brother and me just flat out doesn't work for Mr. B. We have been making weekly and bi-monthly trips to the Children's Hospital in the hopes that a new program they have up there can help. I am having a particularly hard time with Session 2, so I figured blogging about it could help us, as well as others who may be going through the same thing.
The first step in behavior modification is to identify the behavior. You can't just say, "Little Johnny is disrespectful to me and acts up when he shouldn't." That's not an identifiable behavior. A behavior is any action that can be timed and counted. A more appropriate answer would be, "Little Johnny talks out of turn at least 5 times every hour, and he doesn't comply with any request I make of him." THOSE are actions that can be truly timed and counted.
EVERY behavior is learned in some way. And that's the hard truth. Mr. B has been taught, either directly or indirectly, to behave in every way he does now. I may not have intentionally taught him to try to negotiate every single request I make of him, but he has learned this behavior because I let it go and played along a time or 50. I didn't do that intentionally of course, things just happen. It's not until we actively SEE what we are doing, and log it, that we truly get a sense of "OH WOW! THAT's what is wrong!" I will tell you right now, this program has been eye opening for me. I'm VERY consistent. I'm Super Nanny consistent when it comes to discipline and all that jazz, but when I really log everything and take the time to write it all out....I make mistakes every single day, and those little mistakes accumulate to what we're experiencing now.
So here's STEP ONE!
Antecedent or Triggers: Every behavior has a trigger. The trigger could be a certain person or place. Perhaps Little Susie only hits one person. Maybe Little Johnny screams every time you drive by a particular street. Maybe your child gets very aggressive just before lunch. Maybe your child says no and refuses to comply every time you ask him to pick up his toys or do her homework, etc. I have to log what was going on just before the behavior so that we can identify the triggers.
Identify the Behavior: I am to make a list of all of his behaviors. Remember, the actions that can be timed and counted. Once I have those targeted behaviors, I have to decide WHY he's doing it. Every behavior is done for a reason, and once we know that reason we can work to eliminate the negative behavior and replace it with a positive one.
Consequences: Consequences are what happens as a result of the behavior. Maybe you put Little Susie in timeout, perhaps little johnny lost a favorite toy. You may have even used corporal punishment and spanked him.
Here are the reasons for behaviors:
1.) Attention Seeking: Your child wants attention for some reason. You may give them your undivided attention all day, but the second you pick up the phone they are all up in your business yelling and acting up because they want your attention. Or you may be busy lately and their behavior has taken a turn for the worse when you're around. Or maybe they need your attention for something else, but they don't really know how to gain it appropriately. The list is endless here, but ANY attention-even negative attention-is still attention. This is a problem for Mr. B. He can be a complete angel, quiet and content to play alone. But the second I leave the room to do work myself, pick up the phone, etc. he's going to start acting up in a major way to get my attention.
2.) Avoidance: You ask Little Johnny to do his homework, and instead he bursts into a major tantrum or crying fit. You ask Little Susie to pick up her toys, and instead she begins to run around the house throwing things. You ask your child to go put away their laundry and they flat out refuse. etc...etc...etc. Basically here, the reward for the behavior is avoiding an unwanted demand.
3.) Escape (goes along with Avoidance) : You invite Aunt Lucy over, and Little Johnny hates the smell of Aunt Lucy's perfume so he runs around and defies you, and gets in time out in his room. This is just one mild example of avoidance. Little Johnny wants to avoid Aunt Lucy, so he acts out in order to avoid being around her.
4.) To get what he/she wants: You are in the store and Little Susie is throwing a complete fit because she wants a candy bar. You're at the register, everyone is staring. "Here Susie! If you just stop crying, you can have the candy bar!" The next time you refuse and hold out longer, and her tantrum intensifies until you give in again. Little Susie knows if she tantrums long enough, she will eventually get the candy bar she wants.
5.) Self Satisfaction: This would be your stereotypical stimming behaviors like chewing on clothes/hair, spinning, slapping, hand flapping, sniffing, etc.
The first step is logging the behavior, what the trigger is, and what the consequence is. Then you have to decide what the reason is for the behavior.
That's the ABC's of behavior. I plan to blog our journey each week.