CREATING A BEHAVIOR MANAGEMENT
Effective responses to challenging
behavior arising from autism
syndrome rarely happen by chance. A successful strategy will
require a disciplined approach that coordinates and implements a
number of steps.
In some cases, there can be many behavioral issues
involved. Try working on one or two, starting with the most severe
ones or those most likely to cause the child or others harm. Creating
a behavior management program involves a number of steps.
What are the steps in creating a behavior management program?
The steps for responding to challenging behavior
• What is the challenging behavior?
• What causes and influences the challenging behavior?
• What changes are expected and how will they be measured?
• Choosing a strategy for change
• Develop a behavior management program.
What is the challenging behavior?
It is usually best to only work on one or two
behaviors at a time. Each challenging behavior requires a different
strategy. It is important to prioritize which behaviors will be
addressed first. It will help if there is a way to measure the behavior.
This will help in seeing how effective a program is. Examples of
measurement are how often and where does the behavior occur, how
long does it last and how do people react to it?
What causes the challenging behavior?
The causes or influences of challenging behavior
may be divided into:
• Individual factors
• Environmental factors
• Factors related to people.
This step involves what is often called a functional
behavior assessment. It is a description of the behavior, the context
it occurs in, and its consequences. A therapist or parent acts a
'behavior detective' to find out what causes a particular behavior.
Some possible reasons include:
• Wanting attention
• To get a desired object or activity
• Change of sensory stimulation ie. temperature, hearing, sense
of touch or motion
• Emotional control ie. self-calming if anxious, or stimulation
if feeling down
• Escape from an unpleasant situation.
The behavior is analysed in terms of the ABC approach:
ANTECEDENT - what triggers the behavior
BEHAVIOR - what is the actual behavior that results
CONSEQUENCE - what happens in response to the
A behavior program can work on all three of these
steps, such as minimizing the triggers for a behavior, shaping more
appropriate behavior in the child, and manipulating the consequences
to encourage more appropriate behavior ie. ignoring is the consquences
of attention-seeking behavior.
What changes are expected, and how will they be measured?
Setting realistic goals for change involves:
• The degree to which the behaviors may be eliminated, reduced,
increased or influenced
• The child's capacity to control the behavior
• The child's level of insight and reasoning skills
• The environment (structure and consistency)
• The ability and willingness of people around the person to assist
Behavior should be measured prior to the intervention to provide
a ‘baseline’ against which progress can be compared. The period
of time spent measuring the behavior needs to be long enough to
provide a representative view.
to download charts you can use to monitor behavior over time.
Which strategy or approach will be used?
There are many different approaches and strategies
to encourage individuals on the autism spectrum to change their
behavior. The suitability and effectiveness of each option will
vary according to the individuals with a brain injury, the people
around them and the environment. Some of the most commonly used
• Modifying the environment or routine
• Distracting the child
• Rewarding a child for an alternative behavior
• Changing expectations and demands placed upon the child
• Teaching the child new skills and behaviors
• Modification techniques such as desensitization
and graded extinction
• Changing how people around the child react
• Time out
How do I develop a behavior management program?
The key questions in developing a behavior management
• What are the specific behaviors to address?
• What is the current pattern of behavior?
• What is the goal for change?
• What are the steps towards achieving the goal?
• How will change be recognized and monitored?
• What approach or combination of approaches is most likely to be
For all carers and family members involved in the program, a consistent
approach is often the most significant factor influencing success.
The expectations of behavioral change also need to be clearly defined
and realistic. It may not be possible to change all behaviors at
once, or in all situations.
Click here for the full
range of Asperger's and autism fact sheets at www.autism-help.org
This article adapted with permission from www.biaq.com.au
and remains under their copyright