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Warrensville Heights, OH 44128

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Challenging Behaviors

Strategies for Managing Challenging Behaviors

By Rachel Avner Torrance, MEd, BCBA, COBA, Owner and Director, Accessing Abilities, LLC and Pragaya Jha, Supervisee and Behavior Specialist

Handling or better yet preventing inappropriate behaviors can feel overwhelming when you’re trying to get through the day and help your child achieve goals. While we know our autistic children may struggle with social communication, sensory issues, transitions and changes in routine, we need strategies to deal with difficult behavior.

The first step is to figure out why your child is behaving the way they are. Keep notes on what happens before, during and after a difficult incident to help you understand what triggers the behavior. Talk to your child’s physician or dentist to see if a medical condition may be contributing. For example, covering their mouth because of a toothache or covering their ears because they have ear pain from an ear infection. Are there dietary or GI (gastrointestinal) issues that could be contributing?

Observe your child at home and ask their teacher, therapist or caregivers for what is happening when they are with your child. Are there changes in routine, interactions with classmates or things happening at certain times or places? Is the behavior you’re concerned about happening in those other settings with other people?

Different interventions can help with different situations. For example, if they seem overwhelmed or tired give them a number of cards and show them they can turn one in to ask for a break. If their behavior is to gain attention, teach appropriate ways to get attention, and ignore them when they’re trying to get your attention inappropriately. If it’s a sensory issue try to replace the behavior with something more appropriate and address the sensory need.

“When considering behavior needs, first ask: is there a problem? If so, where is the problem? Who has the problem?” - Paula Kluth, PhD.

The Milestones Challenging Behaviors Tool Kit provides insights to understand and address problem behaviors. Contact the Milestones Helpdesk for information or book an individual or family consultation to help you make a customized action plan based on your unique needs.

If behaviors continue and are more severe, consider consulting with your school team as well as a specialist who can help you further assess the reasons for the behavior and develop a behavior plan. Specialists include a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), Speech and Language Pathologist, Developmental Pediatrician or Psychologist. BCBAs specialize in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) which is the science of human behavior. Utilizing specific approaches, they will assess and analyze a behavior and then develop a treatment plan. For more information on ABA or to find a local BCBA, visit the BACB website or contact the Milestones free autism Helpdesk.

Dealing with all of this can make it hard to get through the day, not to mention solve the behavior problem! Make sure you are turning to your own support system and taking care of yourself so you can be at your best to help your child. If you are interested, parent support groups can be found both locally through nonprofit organizations like Milestones’ Resource Center, and through national organizations such as the National Autism Center.

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