Stimming and the Child with Autism: Helpful Insights

Stimming is a common behavior for children with autism and a frequent cause of concern for parents. Called “stereotypy” in clinical terms, stimming refers to the flapping, rocking, humming, or otherwise repetitive behavior we often associate with children diagnosed with autism. In terms of function of behavior, stimming is included in the automatic reinforcement category. That is, children engage in stimming because it either feels good (positive reinforcement) or because it alleviates some discomfort or pain (negative reinforcement). We field many inquiries from parents of children with autism asking how to handle stimming. It’s a perplexing behavior that many parents…

Acting Out to Obtain Something Tangible

Sometimes when a child misbehaves, she’s trying to get attention from a parent. Other times, she wants a particular object, like a toy. Even though the tantrums may be the same, the difference in the reasons behind the tantrums are very important. A child who acts out to obtain something tangible should be dealt with differently than a child who acts out to get your attention. (Incidentally, the official classification of this behavior is called “socially mediated positive reinforcement.” We’ve written before about the different functions of behavior in this post here.) Let’s explore what parents can do to handle…

Acting Out To Avoid Something

A common cause of problem behavior in children with autism is the effort to avoid or escape something the child doesn’t like or doesn’t want to do – such as doing homework, cleaning up toys or brushing teeth. The official name for this type of behavior is “socially mediated negative reinforcement,” but in our practice we often call this “escape” behavior. Since so much of parenting involves teaching your children how to take care of themselves and be a helpful family member and citizen, escape behavior can be particularly frustrating for a parent. We’ve explored other functions of behavior in…

Acting Out To Gain Your Attention

As every parent knows, your child likes to be the focus of your attention. For children with autism, though, this natural inclination can lead to unwanted behavior, from simple tantrums to potentially destructive outbursts. Putting a stop to this behavior can be incredibly difficult, but there are some simple strategies that can help you and your child cope. In our own practice, we find that focusing on the function of the negative behavior, rather than the behavior itself, leads to the best results. In this case, the function of the behavior is to get your attention. (For more details on…

Toilet Training the Child with Autism

It’s the ultimate goal of any parent of a young child: to get the child off diapers as quickly as possible. As you may have guessed, toilet training can take longer for children with autism. However, don’t be discouraged. Almost all children, regardless of where they are on the spectrum, can be toilet trained. And for many children, toilet training can go more quickly than you’d think — within a week, if approached correctly. The trick lies in having the right system.   Is My Child Ready? First and foremost, all children – if they’re physiologically able to – should…

Understanding Functions of Behavior

“Why does my child do that?” For parents of a child with autism, this frequent question can have important implications. Behavior is never just about the behavior. Although it’s tempting to focus on how your child’s behavior manifests, it’s critical to look deeper and understand the reasons why the behavior exists. Understanding those reasons is the first step in understanding how to change that behavior and produce the results you seek. Fortunately, there is a framework for identifying the purpose behind your child’s behavior so we can develop the right approach.   What Are “Functions of Behavior”? Functions of behavior…

Navigating IEPs: Setting Expectations for the Public School Setting

 [Disclaimer: The following content is intended to provide helpful insights only. Positive Behavioral Connections does not present itself as an advocate for you or your child during the IEP development process.] If you have a child with autism, at some point you will likely need to create an Individualized Education Program, or IEP. The IEP is a legally-binding contract between you and your child’s school that identifies the specific special education services the school will provide for your child. However, sometimes there can be a gap between the services you seek and the services the school wants or is able…

How to Avoid Power Struggles with Your Child with Autism

Ah, power struggles – the bane of every parent’s existence. Add to that the challenges of dealing with a child with autism, and you end up with a recipe for disaster. Or do you? With a few smart, well thought-out strategies, you may be able to put a stop to these battles before they even start. Drop the Rope Ask anyone who’s been there and they can tell you, power struggles can slip in before you realize what’s happening. The back-and-forth volley to see who’s calling the shots may involve simple verbal banter, or it can be physical as well….

Setting the Pace: How Long Does Autism Therapy Take?

As parents with newly diagnosed children review the steps involved in the Applied Behavior Analysis therapy model, parents often begin to wonder how many hours will be involved in a typical ABA treatment plan.  As with many broad questions like this, the answer is simply, “It depends.” For a child over the age of three, if the goal is to remediate skills – that is, to help close the gap between the child’s actual developmental level and the typical level for the child’s chronological age – 30 to 40 hours of intervention per week is typically recommended. For a child…

Social Skills Training: Navigating the Nuances

All parents want their children to grow into a healthy and happy adults. But when a child with autism struggles to “fit in” socially, for many parents, their sense of worry kicks into overdrive. Suddenly, social skills training may become the parents’ top priority for the child. Parents may find themselves continually prompting their child to say “please” and “thank you”; they may set up play dates with typically developing children, or they may sign their child up for the local Park District soccer team. In truth, perhaps the wisest thing parents can do is to step back and take…

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