Your child might lick their fingers in public, or remove their clothing. At home, they might be overly fussy about what they eat, or they might wet the bed. At school, they might be aggressive towards other children or prone to meltdowns in the classroom. With autism, it is not uncommon to find these kinds of challenging behaviours, and while a traditional response (traditional in the sense that it was the dominant way of dealing with children in the past) would be to scold the child, reprimanding them in the hopes that they’ll curb such behaviours, new research shows that in fact the opposite approach should be applied.
Autism – Positivity Over Negativity
Dealing with your child’s challenging behaviors from a positive reinforcement standpoint, rather than a negative reinforcement standpoint, is going to be a lot more effective. One has to understand why a child with autism might behave in these ways: they might be struggling to understand their surroundings or be in a state of pain or discomfort that they are having difficulty communicating.
To scold the child may only serve to further confuse them, or deter them from trying to communicate in the future. If your child is behaving in challenging ways, look for a counseling center that offers ABA (Applied Behaviour Analysis) – here in Ajax, Integrate Health offers a wonderful ABA program that’s worth looking into.
Essentially, what ABA does is increase useful behaviors and reduce challenging behaviors through positive reinforcement, and the way its practitioners go about doing that is to assess the child’s behaviors and develop an individualized support plan that addresses the child’s needs and behaviors.
It has been shown to be very effective not only in reducing challenging behaviors like tantrums and non-compliance but also in promoting useful skills. ABA can focus on helping a child with autism communicate their feelings better or adapting better to social situations. It can even help them in their academic skills.
A behavior analyst will work with you and your child to determine specific, personalized goals according to data they collect on specific behavioral concerns. They will implement strategies that are able to extend beyond just the assessment room, strategies that are meant to work in messy, real-life scenarios.
Training a close eye to how environmental factors, such as family or school dynamics, might contribute to challenging behaviors, the behavior analyst will help target the sources and advise on effective, positive reinforcement methods for reducing those behaviors.
It’s never too late to start an ABA program. For children of all ages (and even adults), this kind of program can really work wonders. With a reduction in challenging behaviors, an increase in useful behaviors, and a system of rewards that can help boost self-confidence and self-worth, ABA really can improve the overall well-being of a child with autism.
In the past, parents might have dealt with challenging behaviors with a stern and dismissive word (or worse), but these days there is ample research to support that reinforcing a child positively – with autism or without – is the way to go.
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