April 12th. The journey continues xxxx
Behaviour management. Every parent (if they are honest) struggles with managing their child’s behaviour at some point whether it’s toddler tantrums, toilet training issues, eating issues or issues of compliance. If your child is on the Autistic Spectrum you can multiply these issues a million fold.
Delayed language development is a feature of children with Autism. In fact, this is the key difference between children with Asperger’s Syndrome and ASD – those with Asperger’s have typical language development however children with Autism have delayed language development and in some cases remain non-verbal. James didn’t speak until he was 4 years of age. This caused him a great deal of frustration due to the fact that he couldn’t communicate his needs to us. This of course impacted upon his behaviour enormously.
Individuals on the Autistic Spectrum tend to be highly visual thinkers and they generally respond well when strong visual supports are provided to them. http://www.pecsaustralia.com/ Initially, we used the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) with James to help him learn to communicate with us. These days we still use PECS visuals when we create schedules/routines for the boys. I have never had a closer relationship with the laminator and my printer than I have since giving birth to James. Visual supports such as PECS really help an ASD child’s behaviour by providing a visual representation of such things as their wants, your expectations and what the schedule for the day is.
At home, we have a large whiteboard which is covered in visual supports for the boys. There is a token system which is about following rules in the house; there is a visual support for self regulation; there is a choices wheel which is about problem solving; there is a “Stop! Think! Choose! Do!” visual; there are visuals about emotions and emotions management techniques. Having a visual framework for expectations makes it a whole heap easier to manage challenging behaviour and provides consistency and predictability for the boys. It takes some time to set it all up but I guarantee you of the positive results it will yield. It prevents arguments between you and the kids, and cuts down the amount of negotiating and chat you have to enter into. I’ll attach a copy of our whiteboard at home.
We use a token system with the boys. Each boy starts the day with three tokens. In order to retain all privileges in the house, the boys need to retain all 3 tokens. The house rules are displayed on the noticeboard. We have four – keep hands, feet and objects to yourself; follow directions the first time; be a good friend and speak nicely. If they break a rule they are first issued a warning. They are reminded of the rule and then issued a verbal warning. No other talk is entered into. If they continue the behaviour we remove a token. They then lose privileges. The timer (we usual an ASD visual timer http://www.suelarkey.com.au/shopping/pgmmore_information.php?id=45&=SID#MOREINFO ) then goes on for 10 minutes. During this time if they change the behaviour they can then earn the token back – once they can state which rule they broke and then apologise to the person they have upset. This system works really well for us. As parents, I feel we talk at them less and follow through appropriately more when we have a structured system in place.
Children on the Autistic Spectrum also have issues with self regulation. They find it very difficult to identify and verbalise how they are feeling, and often are not aware of their feelings until it’s too late and a meltdown has occurred. We use the “Alert Program – How does your engine run?” (Williams & Shellenberger 1996). http://www.alertprogram.com Basically you refer to the child’s body as being like an engine – it can run too high, just right, or too low. We want the kids to be in the ‘just right’ range most of the time so that good behaviour, emotional regulation and behaviour can happen. It’s also a great strategy because it takes the focus off the child and moves the focus onto their behaviour. It’s a wonderful program for alertness and for emotional regulation. It’s extremely easy to implement and as a consequence the boys are both developing some great self regulation strategies.
Children with Autism really struggle with problem solving skills. We use the “Wheel of Choice” program (Lott & Nelson) http://store.positivediscipline.com/Wheel-of-Choice-A-Problem-Solving-Program-E-Book-Download-PDF-File_p_68.html. This wheel gives visual supports for the boys in learning to solve problems for themselves. Some of the choices on the wheel include ask for help; ignore it; count to 10; apologise; go to a cool off spot and others. When the boys fight or argue we can use this visual support to help them internalise and negotiate the process of making good choices and problem solving for themselves. This works well … but it’s probably more a work in progress …
I like to have a range of facial expressions and emotions up on the whiteboard because if the boys are too upset to verbalise their feelings, they can point to the appropriate picture to communicate how they feel. We also use “Tucker Turtle’s Tuck Technique” for times when the boys feel really overwhelmed. Tucker Turtle’s Tuck Technique is – recognise your feelings; think and stop; go inside your shell and take 3 breaths; come out when calm and think of a solution. It is a simple concept with a great visual support – kids know turtles can tuck themselves inside their shells and retreat when they are scared or overwhelmed. There is also a wonderful story to support this strategy. Link below.
We also use the Stop! Think! Do! Strategy to help the boys to make good choices. It’s a very simple strategy but again it’s highly visual and easily relatable to them. You can read more about it this process at http://www.stopthinkdo.com/ The visual support I like best is at the following link http://www.xtra-cat.com/stop-think-choose.html