Monday, January 7, 2013

Autism Behavior Management Strategies - Changing Your Child One Step at a Time

Autistic children often have behaviors that can easily get under one's nerve. However, regardless how tempting scolding an autistic child may be, it is always better to follow the pleasant way of doing things as this results to positive changes in the child's behavior.
You child's behavior is only as good as your responses to them. If you respond to your child's tantrum, whether by telling him to stop or by rewarding him, you are reinforcing the recurrence of the improper behavior. More often than not, children throw a feat to call your attention. If your child succeeds in doing so by way of tantrums, it is likely for him to repeat such behavior. Whereas if you ignore it and reward only positive behaviors (such as being quiet after a misconduct), you can expect a positive change.
The above example explains how autism behavior management works- ignoring unwanted behaviors and rewarding good ones. But, of course, it is far complicated than that. There are techniques to shape an autistic child's behaviors and ways to encourage the display of unwanted actions. Below are some of them.
1. Understand the ABC model. The ABC model is a simplified way of observing and rewarding a behavior. A is for Antecedent or the event that precedes the behavior. B is the behavior itself and is defined as an action that can be observed, measured, seen and heard. Anything that goes beyond these characteristics are not to be considered as behaviors and, therefore, not covered by autism behavior management. The third is the Consequence or the event that follows right after the behavior. Consequence often dictates whether a behavior will continue to occur or not. Once you fully understand the principles of the ABC model, it would be easier for you to invent and use tools that can modify your child's behaviors.
To test the principle, try to choose one behavior that you would want to reinforce or discourage. Using the above example, throwing tantrums can be reinforced in two very distinct ways - by ignoring it or by rewarding it. What most people do not know is that by simply saying "no" or any command that intends to put a stop to the behavior is one way of rewarding the difficult behavior. The most effective way is to ignore the behavior. Reward a positive behavior afterward (in this case, the positive behavior is being quiet after the tantrum). Choose a reward that is meaningful to the child.
2. Be clear and consistent. Once you have chosen to change a certain autistic behavior, there is no turning back. You have to continue the process of modifying your child's behavior. Also, there should never be an excuse for not doing the proper reinforcement.
3. Reward or punish right away. The best way of modifying a behavior is to give the reward or punishment right away, not a few seconds or minutes after the action was performed. This is because children still lack the capacity to analyze the relationship between events.
4. Lessen the use of reinforcements as the behavior improves. Ultimately, the goal is to change a behavior, not to make a child respond positively only when reinforcement is given. As the behavior improves, try to gradually withdraw the reinforcement. First replace material rewards with social rewards, then replace the latter with non-social rewards until the behavior disappears completely.
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