Behavior            Management Strategies

Self-Injurious (Cutting,   These behaviors can be a result of the following: an...
should try to divert the student’s attention to something other than
                         their fixation, but also enc...
the problem will not likely be successful. Also, the teacher should not
give the child something to make them stop or phys...
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Managing Behaviors In Autism


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Managing Behaviors In Autism

  1. 1. Behavior Management Strategies Self-Injurious (Cutting, These behaviors can be a result of the following: an inability to Biting, Hitting, Head- communicate, a need to feel in control of the environment, lack of Banging, Scratching, sensory stimulation, a want to avoid a particular person or situation, etc.) etc. When possible, the teacher should try to communicate with the student regarding why he / she is engaging in these behaviors and alter the classroom environment accordingly. Compensatory communication strategies should be taught to the child to avoid the need for these behaviors. For example, communication boards can be used to help the child express his / her wants, needs, feelings, etc. Educating the child on simple gestures that he / she can use for communication can also eliminate frustration for the child. For example, teaching the child to raise his / her hand or hold something up when he / she wants the attention of the teacher will keep the student from feeling that the teacher is not acknowledging him and getting anxious. Self-Stimulating These behaviors can occur as a result of many things: over (Hand-Flicking, stimulation, under stimulation, a need for a calming sensation, etc. Rocking, Arm-Flapping, The teacher should try to redirect the student to the task at hand. If etc.) this does not work, try focusing the student’s attention on something that he / she is particularly interested in (a particular object, subject, etc.). This will distract the child from the self-stimulating behavior and allow the teacher the opportunity to refocus his attention. *To avoid these behaviors in the first place, something that the student is motivated by / interested in should be incorporated into every lesson to keep the child’s attention. Running (Running Students with Autism run away or wander as another means of Away, Excessive reacting to over stimulation or high levels of stress. Students who are Wandering, etc.) prone to these behaviors should be placed in seats far away from classroom doors and should have constant visual supervision. With the help of the child’s parents, the teacher could also set up a corner or area of the room as the student’s “safe place” and teach him that when he feels he needs to run away or “escape” that he can simply go to his “safe place”. Repetition / Fixations Many children become fixated on certain subjects, toys, etc. as a (Behaviors, Subjects, means of relieving stress. These fixations are a comfort for them and Toys, Phrases / Words, allow them to escape from situations that make them uncomfortable Echolalia, etc.) by reverting to something that makes them feel at ease. Teachers
  2. 2. should try to divert the student’s attention to something other than their fixation, but also encourage them to use their fixation as a means of communicating with others about what they know and are interested in. Repetition is common in Autism and can be a difficult behavior to remediate. The teacher should first attempt to discover why the child is repeating which may be to avoid a certain situation, a lack of communication ability, being uncomfortable in a social situation, feeling uncomfortable or stressed, etc. If it is possible to identify why the repetitive behavior is occurring, the teacher should either alter the environment accordingly or at the least, try to divert the student’s attention to something they are interested in to refocus them. Inability to Deal with The student with Autism often has a need for routines and deviating Change from routines or even transitioning from one activity to another can be a source of great stress. The teacher should give the student a visual schedule so that he / she can anticipate the activities that will make up his / her school day, alleviating some of the anxiety. For higher functioning students, the teacher could also involve them in the construction of the daily schedule. For children who have trouble transitioning from one activity to another, a few minutes before one activity ends the teacher should say that the activity is almost over and ask the student to look at their schedule and see what will be coming next. Screaming and Crying When a student begins screaming and crying the teacher should (Overloads, Panic always first make certain that the child is not hurt or in any danger. Attacks) However, these behaviors usually occur because the child is overwhelmed and/or over stimulated and they do not have the communication skills necessary to express their frustrations. Sources of anxiety can also be particular foods, people, noises, etc. Teachers need to be aware of what things in the classroom environment are sources of anxiety for the student and try to avoid them. Self- monitoring techniques should also be taught to the student so that he / she can express when they are getting upset, avoiding large tantrums. An example of this could be as simple as teaching the student to press a button whenever he / she begins to feel anxious. This would allow the teacher to address the issue before the student gets out of control. If a student should begin screaming and crying it is important that the teacher remember that the main reason for the outburst is a difficulty with communication and therefore, trying to talk to the student about
  3. 3. the problem will not likely be successful. Also, the teacher should not give the child something to make them stop or physically console them (hugging, etc.). This shows that student that screaming and crying = reward, which is counterproductive and will encourage the child to repeat this behavior. Instead, the teacher should remove the child from the environment that is causing the anxiety, sit with them so they know that their anxiety is being acknowledged, wait until he / she has calmed down a little, and then resolve the issue.