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Autism Behaviors: Stressful situations for all.

Just when we thought we were past most of Bryce’s problem behaviors, another one cropped up on us. We had been making real progress addressing Bryce’s behaviors. I believe that most of his behaviors happen because he has not been able to communicate a lot of his emotions, wants, and needs with us. Behaviors go through stages. We start by thinking “Oh my goodness, I can’t believe that just happened.”, “Why did that just happen?”, or “I didn’t see that coming.” From there, it rears its ugly head more often until it becomes a routine behavior. By now, we cringe when we think we’ve triggered it, or know instinctively what is about to go down.

In Bryce’s case, it was Bryce going down…to the floor! In times past, when he lost his balance and fell to the floor, we playfully used an imaginary crane to pick him up and distract him from his sad reaction from the fall. But that ended up backfiring on us when Bryce decided to take it to a whole new level. Now he stages "falls" in public, at stores, friend’s houses, and in front of family. He is also using other excuses to use the behavior such as accidentally bumping into something, when he doesn’t want to share, or when he hears a noise and/or instruction that he doesn't like.

It all came to a head the other day when I ate a grape from the bunch Bryce was eating. He immediately fell to the floor, saying “Oh no!, Get the crane!” I remembered from prior behaviors, that in this type of situation, I should ignore the behavior. I left the kitchen, and he followed me into the office screaming for the crane, falling to the floor once again. I left the office while he continued screaming and kicked over a large container with liquid in it. I sat in the living room trying to wait it out.He finally came into the living room with the same screaming and crying behavior for me to use the crane.

In the meantime, Sandy came home from work to be greeted by this entire scene and quietly went to the office to clean up the mess while ignoring Bryce's behavior. About twenty minutes after all this began, he came up on the couch next to me and said “Daddy took the grape”. It was great that he was able to communicate that to me - the root cause of the behavior!! He finally settled down and snuggled in next to me. It was then that I explained to him in a calm voice that his behavior was not appropriate, and it made me sad. He sat and thought about what I said for a long time. I really think he understood me.

The next time we had an episode was in Target. He looked at me, and then at the floor, like that was where he was going. Instead of falling to the floor, he said "I am sad." Sometimes he gets pronouns mixed up, so he may have been referring to me as being sad if he fell to the floor. In any case, he did not follow through with the behavior, and we were able to move on without incident. This is a baby step, and I do not expect it will go this smooth every time, but it is a start. As parents, we have to hang in there, have endless patience, and wait for the breakthrough.

This behavior prompted me to make a custom ABC Chart. These are very helpful for the ABA therapists.

Every behavior has a purpose: -There are 4 main reasons for challenging behaviors to occur:

1. To escape or avoid an undesirable situation (ex. taking a test)

2. To get social attention (positive or negative) (ex. receiving a hug or a reprimand)

3. To gain access to a desired item/activity- (ex. To get device/ go outside)

4. To access sensory input- (ex. Enjoying the feeling of high-5’s)

The ABC’s :

Antecedents- an antecedent is an event that sets the occasion for a behavior or what happens right before a behavior occurs. Antecedents can be factors in an individual’s external environment such as an instruction by a teacher or a comment from another peer. An individual’s internal states can also serve as antecedents, like pain from headaches or feeling hungry.

Behaviors- a behavior is anything that someone does. Although there can be internal behaviors, most behavioral interventions focus on external behaviors that are observable and measurable.

Consequence- A consequence is anything that immediately follows as a result of a behavior. Consequences can increase the likelihood of a behavior happening again, decrease the likelihood of a behavior happening again, or have no effect on the occurrence of a behavior of the future.

Replacing the behaviors- behavior plans should be designed to provide appropriate consequences for the behaviors based on the determined function of the targeted behavior. More importantly, plans should also include ways to teach appropriate alternatives to engaging in those behaviors. It is important to identify and teach replacement behaviors in conjunction with the reduction of the challenging behaviors. Replacement behaviors can include: -appropriate requesting -how to access attention appropriately -how to appropriately communicate wants and/or needs. Appropriate replacement behaviors should be reinforced.

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