- It gets worse before it gets better. A child who is used to obtaining, toys, cookies, computer time etc from a temper tantrum, is not simply going to stop the first time this stops being effective. He will turn up the volume to see if this gets a result. Picture yourself asking for something in a loud tone of voice that always gets results. If you suddenly stop getting a result, do you stop asking? Of course not. You yell louder and see if that works. The same thing is at work when you stop giving in to your child. He/she will simply turn up the volume. It is so important that you hold your ground. Your child is not crying because he thinks you don’t love him. He’s crying over the loss of control. Picture yourself at work, you’re in charge of a project that has become your baby and your boss takes it over. Of course your boss doesn’t love you but that’s not why you're mad. You’ve lost control. Such is human nature. For further reading google “Extinction Burst”
- Rewarding a problem behaviour one time out of every 10, 20 ...50 times is actually WORSE then rewarding it every time. If you want your child to stop interrupting you while your on the phone, then they must be told they have to wait every single time. If you stop and ask what he wants one time out of 20 he learns you don’t always make him wait so he doesn’t have to stop asking. (“This time she might, let’s see”) For further reading use the search term “Intermittent Reinforcement”
- “Finished” is not negotiable. Imprint this word in your mind as the one word in the English language that once said, you can’t back down on. Every child I teach learns that once I say “finished” I don’t waffle and that further screaming etc is a waste of their time. Problems can occur, if the parents say “finished” and then give in to the child. I have gone so far as to tell parents not to use that word at all until they have learned to hold their ground. That way it prevents upsets in my session.
- Behaviour Therapy is not like piano lessons. It can not be taught in isolation and then applied to every day life with out parental participation. Everyone must be on the same page. If one person lets him do something, he will expect everyone to let him and obviously get very upset when this is not the case.
Please note I am by no means dismissing the role played by sensory issues in influencing the problem behaviours of ASD children. This post is meant as a reminder to be aware of the behaviour component that is always there as well. If you'll excuse the Dr. Phil quote, "a behavior starts for one reason and continues for another reason". An outburst or other inappropriate action that results in an offer of ice cream to calm him/her down is much more likely to recur. After that, what incentive does the child have to use functional methods? It is important to have ongoing discussions with your therapists etc of the child's actions AND the reactions of everyone in contact with him/her. This way everyone becomes aware of the ways they may be unconsciously encouraging or escalating a behaviour, that while starting for sensory reasons, is still achieving a significant benefit.