Tools and Techniques for Managing Autism Behavior Problems

Explore how to deal with autism behavior problems using empowering strategies and therapeutic interventions.

reuben kesherim
Ruben Kesherim
July 15, 2024

Tools and Techniques for Managing Autism Behavior Problems

Understanding Autism Behavior Problems

When it comes to autism, dealing with behavior problems can often be a significant challenge. Understanding these behaviors and their impact is the first step in learning how to manage them effectively.

Types of Autism Behavior Problems

Children with autism can exhibit a wide range of behavior problems. Some common issues include:

  • Aggression: This can be physical (e.g., hitting, biting) or verbal (e.g., shouting, using offensive language).
  • Self-injury: Some children might hurt themselves, such as by banging their heads or biting their hands.
  • Tantrums: Outbursts can occur when the child is overwhelmed or frustrated.
  • Repetitive behaviors: This includes actions like rocking, spinning, or hand-flapping.
  • Non-compliance: The child may resist or refuse to follow instructions or routines.

It's important to remember that each child is unique and may not exhibit all these behaviors. Furthermore, the severity and frequency of these behaviors can vary greatly from one child to another.

Impact of Behavior Problems

Behavior problems in children with autism can have a significant impact on both the child and those around them. These behaviors can interfere with the child's ability to learn, socialize, and function in everyday life. They can also cause stress and anxiety for the child, as well as for parents, caregivers, and teachers.

The impact of these behaviors can also extend to the child's social environment. For instance, aggressive behavior can lead to difficulties in forming friendships, and non-compliance can disrupt classroom activities. Therefore, it's crucial to develop individualized strategies to increase positive behaviors and manage challenging ones. Such strategies can build a sense of pride in accomplishments, personal responsibility, and understanding of expectations, reducing anxiety and reactivity that may lead to behavior problems.

Understanding autism behavior problems is the first step in managing them. By recognizing the types of behaviors and understanding their impact, parents, caregivers, and educators can begin to develop effective strategies for dealing with these behaviors. By doing so, they can help children with autism live more comfortable and fulfilling lives.

Strategies to Address Autism Behavior Problems

Managing behavior problems in children with autism can be a complex process. It requires patience, understanding, and the use of effective strategies that can help in reducing anxiety and reactivity that may lead to challenging behaviors. Let's explore three key strategies: the importance of a consistent routine, the role of sensory integration therapy, and the influence of sleep on behavior.

Importance of a Consistent Routine

Routine and predictability play an essential role in the lives of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), bringing stability and comfort. Consistency in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy is vital, as it empowers children to reach their full potential by prioritizing steady attendance [2]. Implementing a predictable daily routine can help children function more independently and improve social and emotional health.

Creating a structured daily routine involves activities like mealtimes, bedtimes, and even playtimes happening at the same time every day. Flexibility and family involvement play critical roles in creating these predictable patterns. Children with autism often feel safe and secure with reliable routines and find fulfillment in accomplishing daily goals.

The Role of Sensory Integration Therapy

Sensory over-responsivity (SOR) is frequently observed in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It is characterized by an overwhelming negative reaction to or avoidance of sensory stimulation, and it has a close relationship with anxiety, depression, insomnia, and family life impairment. Interventions that focus on establishing coping strategies for regulating the emotional response to sensory information, such as sensory integration therapy (SIT), have been found to be effective in reducing SOR behaviors in children with ASD.

SIT involves activities that challenge the child's ability to respond appropriately to sensory input, thereby improving their ability to regulate responses to sensory experiences. With regular practice, children can learn to manage their sensory sensitivities, reducing anxiety and improving overall behavior.

The Influence of Sleep on Behavior

Sleep plays an influential role in the behavior of children with autism. Behavior problems are more likely to occur if a child has trouble sleeping, especially if they wake up in the middle of the night. Younger children are more likely to hurt other people, while older kids and teens are more likely to hurt themselves, especially if they have trouble communicating verbally.

Daily living skills, including talking, social skills, and activities like getting dressed and brushing teeth, are better in children and teens with autism who are good sleepers. It is important to discuss sleep issues with a healthcare provider, as interventions can significantly improve sleep quality and, in turn, behavior. Medications like Risperidone and Aripiprazole can help reduce irritability and aggression in kids and teens with autism [5].

In summary, a consistent routine, sensory integration therapy, and proper sleep management are crucial strategies in managing autism behavior problems. By understanding and implementing these strategies, parents and caregivers can help children with autism lead more comfortable and fulfilling lives.

Therapeutic Interventions for Autism

When it comes to managing autism behavior problems, therapeutic interventions can play a crucial role. Let's explore three common therapeutic interventions: Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and Sensory-Focused Interventions.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a treatment approach that addresses problem behaviors in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The first step in treating problem behavior with ABA is to identify its purpose. This knowledge is then used to develop a treatment plan that promotes a more appropriate way for the child to express themselves or get what they need.

Common treatment strategies used in ABA-based interventions include reinforcement of positive behavior, teaching of new skills, and altering the environment to encourage positive behavior and discourage negative behavior. This approach can be effective in reducing problem behaviors and fostering positive behavioral changes.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may be a treatment option for children with autism spectrum disorder who also have other mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. CBT helps children to alter their beliefs or behaviors to avoid negative emotions.

CBT consists of two main components: the cognitive component, which helps children change how they think about a situation, and the behavioral component, which aids children in changing how they react to a situation. By addressing both components, CBT can support children with autism in managing their emotions and behaviors more effectively [7].

Sensory-Focused Interventions

Sensory-focused interventions for children with ASD can involve a variety of professionals, such as occupational therapists, teachers, parents, and other providers. These interventions typically incorporate sensory experiences like weighted clothing or materials and auditory sensations to affect outcomes such as adaptive behavior and language.

These interventions aim to help children with ASD better process sensory information, which can often be overwhelming. By managing their sensory input, children with ASD may be better able to focus on tasks, communicate effectively, and engage in social interactions.

These therapeutic interventions can provide children with autism with the tools they need to manage their behavior problems. However, it's important to remember that each child is unique, and what works for one child may not work for another. Finding the right intervention often involves trial and error, and it's important to work with professionals who specialize in autism to find the best approach.

The Role of Schools in Autism Behavior Management

Schools play a significant role in managing autism behavior problems. They are not only a place for learning but also an important environment where behavior management strategies can be implemented.

Importance of Evidence-Based Practices

According to ABTaba, two federal laws, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA '04), mandate that educators use evidence-based academic and behavioral practices and programs for children with autism. These laws emphasize the importance of employing strategies that have been proven effective through research and practice.

The National Professional Development Center (NPDC) on Autism Spectrum Disorder has identified 27 evidence-based practices for improving outcomes for students with autism. These practices encompass various areas such as communication, social skills, and behavior management. By implementing these evidence-based practices, educators and practitioners can provide effective support for individuals with autism.

Evidence-Based Practices Areas of Improvement
Communication Intervention Enhancing communication skills
Social Skills Training Building social competence
Behavioral Intervention Managing challenging behavior

Before implementing behavior management strategies, it is essential to clearly define the target behavior that you want to address. Educators and practitioners should determine the specific behavior they want to change and define it in a way that is directly observable, measurable, and clearly defined. This allows for accurate data collection and evaluation of the effectiveness of interventions.

Understanding Individualized Education Programs

When defining the target behavior, it is important to consider the individualized education program (IEP) or individualized family service plan (IFSP) of the student. These plans outline the goals and objectives for the student's education and should be taken into account when identifying the target behavior for intervention [9].

An IEP is a legal document that details the special education and related services a school will provide to meet the unique needs of a student with a disability. The IEP includes information about the student's present level of academic performance, annual goals, how progress will be measured, and the services to be provided.

By adhering to federal mandates and implementing evidence-based practices, educators and practitioners can effectively manage the behavior of individuals with autism. Clear and precise definitions of the target behavior ensure that interventions are tailored to the specific needs of each individual. Through such practices, schools can play a significant role in helping parents understand how to deal with autism behavior problems.

Tips for Parents Dealing with Autism Behavior Problems

Parenting a child with autism presents unique challenges, especially when it comes to dealing with behavioral issues. Here are some practical tips to help parents manage these situations effectively and foster positive behaviors in their child.

Structuring a Daily Routine

For children with autism, routine and predictability are essential. They bring stability and comfort, helping to reduce anxiety and improve social and emotional health [3]. Implementing a predictable, daily routine can help these children function more independently and find fulfillment in accomplishing daily goals.

The routine should cover all key daily activities such as waking up, meal times, school or therapy sessions, playtime, and bedtime. It's also beneficial to incorporate visual aids like charts or calendars to help your child understand and follow the routine. Remember, the goal is to provide a sense of security and predictability, so consistency is key.

Dealing with Aggressive Behavior

Aggressive behavior can be a significant issue in children with autism. Developing individualized strategies to increase positive behaviors is crucial. These strategies can help build a sense of pride in accomplishments, personal responsibility, and understanding of expectations, ultimately reducing anxiety and reactivity that may lead to challenging behaviors [1].

When dealing with aggressive behavior, it's important to remain calm and composed. Try to identify triggers for the behavior and work on strategies to avoid or manage these triggers. Positive reinforcement for good behavior can also be a powerful tool.

Seeking Professional Help

While there's a lot parents can do at home, professional help is often invaluable. Therapies such as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) can be extremely beneficial for children with autism. Consistency in ABA therapy is vital as it empowers children to reach their full potential [2].

It's important to work with professionals who specialize in autism and can provide guidance based on their knowledge and experience. This might include psychologists, therapists, or special education teachers.

Seeking professional help is not a sign of failure or defeat. Instead, it demonstrates a commitment to providing the best possible support for your child. Remember, every child with autism is unique, so what works best for one child may not necessarily work for another. It's about finding the right strategies and supports to meet your child's individual needs.