A child’s Autism diagnosis can invoke the feeling of uncertainty, & anxiety in the parents. Often the parents may become concerned about their child’s future welfare, whether the condition will hold their child back from relationships with others, and whether it will impact their academic performance. These feelings are legit and reasonable.

However, it’s important to note that being diagnosed Autistic isn’t a death sentence. With the proper guidance & support, an autistic child can live a fulling life as any other successful person.

Know the Function of Challenging Behaviors

Knowing what triggers some behavior in a child is crucial to helping them. However, this does not come intuitively; instead, it requires a deeper understanding of the four functions of behavior which can be remembered by the acronym “SEAT.” These are Sensory, Escape, Attention, and Tangible. In ABA or Applied Behavior Analysis, all responses are placed into these four categories.

Sensory – Your child can act in certain ways due to the overwhelming of their senses. For example, when a car screeches, they may cover their ears and cry. Not just sound but also smells, textures, and tastes can cause this reaction. 

Escape: This behavior is performed to avoid or end an uncomfortable situation. It could be avoiding doing a task, leaving the area, or simply refusing to participate. 

Attention is when your child acts out to get attention from adults or peers. Kids 

Tangible – This is when children seek real rewards for their behavior, like candy or a toy.

Once you understand the four functions of behavior, you can begin to work on strategies to help your child through ABA therapy.

Strategies to Prevent or Minimize Challenging Behavior 

Give Clear Direction: You’ve probably heard this mentioned before, but it bears repeating; when communicating with children with ASD, always be clear and concise. Say what you mean in straightforward terms, avoiding jargon or euphemisms that could otherwise confuse them. An excellent example of bad communication is “take.” Of course, we know what it means, that the child should be keen. But a child with ASD may not have the same understanding. A better way to phrase it would be “be careful.” 

Offer Choices: Rather than leaving them with one option they may reject, try to give children with ASD the opportunity to choose. This can help reduce unwanted behaviors and tantrums and subsequently grant them a measure of control over their environment. Say if you are cooking vegetables, provide them with two or three choices, so they can pick what they prefer. It could be vegetables with bananas or vegetables with apples. 

Routine and Consistency:  Establishing consistent behavior expectations at home and school can be a great way to help children with autism thrive. The psychological underpinning behind this is that it helps to create structure and predictability in their environment. A good example is if you plan on having your child not watch beyond nine o’clock so they can get up early, energized and ready for school, stick to 9 o’clock, and don’t be inconsistent.

These tips can help minimize challenging behaviors associated with autism. The most important thing is to be positive in your interactions and communications with children affected by ASD and understand that how they communicate, and process information can be completely different from neurotypical children or even other autistic children.

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