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Proven Techniques for Dealing with Autism Behavior Problems

Master autism behavior problems with proven techniques! From sensory sensitivities to communication strategies, conquer the challenges with confidence.

mark elias
Mark Elias
May 27, 2024

Understanding Autism Behavior

When it comes to understanding and dealing with autism behavior problems, it is important to recognize the role of sensory sensitivities and the impact of sensory overload.

Sensory issues are common in individuals with autism and are included in the diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorder. Sensory sensitivities can manifest as both hypersensitivity (over-responsiveness) and hyposensitivity (under-responsiveness) to various stimuli.

Sensory Sensitivities in Autism

People with autism often experience hypersensitivity to bright lights, certain light wavelengths (e.g., LED or fluorescent lights), overwhelming sounds, smells, textures, and tastes. These sensitivities can lead to sensory avoidance behaviors, such as pulling away from physical touch or covering the ears to avoid loud sounds. On the other hand, hyposensitivity is also common in autism and may result in a constant need for movement, difficulty recognizing sensations like hunger or pain, and an attraction to loud noises and bright lights. This can lead to sensory seeking behaviors, such as making loud noises or rocking back and forth [1].

Over 96% of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) report hyper and hypo-sensitivities in multiple domains, making sensory hyper- and hypo-responsiveness more prevalent in the ASD population than in other developmental disabilities. While there is limited consensus regarding the pattern of sensory deficits in ASD, touch, smell, and taste have historically been considered particularly at risk and indicative of developmental immaturity.

Impact of Sensory Overload

Sensory overload in autism occurs when intense sensory stimuli overwhelm an individual's coping ability. This can result in anxiety, a need to escape, or difficulty in communication. Sensory overload can be triggered by a single overwhelming event or build up over time due to daily sensory sensitivities. It is important to note that the distress caused by sensory stimuli can lead to self-injurious and aggressive behavior in individuals who may be unable to effectively communicate their discomfort [2].

Understanding and accommodating sensory issues in autistic individuals is crucial for easing discomfort and enhancing learning, socializing, and participation in the community. Accommodations may include modifying the environment, utilizing tools and strategies, or establishing new habits. These accommodations can be tailored to different settings and situations to provide the necessary support [1].

By recognizing and addressing sensory sensitivities and the potential for sensory overload, individuals and their caregivers can develop effective strategies for managing autism behavior problems. Creating a sensory-friendly environment and implementing appropriate accommodations can significantly improve the well-being and quality of life for individuals with autism.

Managing Autism Behavior

When it comes to dealing with autism behavior problems, there are various strategies and approaches that can be effective in promoting positive behaviors and reducing problem behaviors. Two key methods commonly used are Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and treatment strategies tailored for addressing specific problem behaviors.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a widely recognized and evidence-based treatment approach for individuals with autism. ABA focuses on understanding the function or purpose of a behavior and developing a treatment plan that promotes more appropriate ways for the individual to express themselves or meet their needs [3]. A qualified behavior analyst designs and oversees the ABA program, customizing it to the individual's skills, needs, interests, and family situation.

In ABA-based interventions, common treatment strategies are implemented to address problem behaviors. These strategies include reinforcing positive behavior, providing clear instructions, setting achievable expectations, and gradually increasing demands as the individual succeeds. Positive reinforcement, a key component of ABA, involves rewarding desired behaviors to encourage their repetition. Rewards can include praise, toys, books, access to activities, and more.

ABA programs are highly individualized and aim to improve skills such as communication, social interactions, and daily living. These skills are broken down into small, manageable steps to facilitate gradual learning and progress. A qualified behavior analyst closely monitors the individual's progress through data collection, adjusting teaching plans and goals as needed.

Seeking help from professionals such as board-certified behavior analysts (BCBAs or BCBA-Doctorate) or psychologists experienced in behavior interventions can provide guidance in developing effective strategies to address problem behaviors in individuals with autism. These professionals can assist in creating behavior intervention plans (BIPs) tailored to target specific problem behaviors [3]. Additionally, services for treating problem behaviors may be available through the child's individualized education program (IEP) at school, which can include a behavior intervention plan (BIP) tailored to target specific problem behaviors.

Treatment Strategies for Problem Behavior

In addition to ABA, there are various treatment strategies that can be employed to address specific problem behaviors in individuals with autism. These strategies are tailored to target and manage specific behaviors that may pose challenges in daily life.

Treating problem behavior in individuals with autism requires patience and a gradual approach to learning new skills that may be difficult for them. Starting with small achievable actions and gradually increasing expectations over time as the individual succeeds is recommended.

Behavioral treatments and counseling can also be effective in addressing problem behaviors associated with sleep issues in individuals with autism. These treatments aim to improve sleep quality, which in turn can have a positive impact on behavior.

It is important for parents and caregivers to seek support and resources to help them navigate the challenges associated with managing autism behavior. Parental struggles with behavior are common, and having access to resources, support groups, and professional guidance can make a significant difference in managing and addressing these challenges.

By utilizing evidence-based strategies like ABA and implementing targeted treatment approaches, individuals with autism and their families can effectively manage autism behavior problems and support positive behavior development. Seeking the guidance of professionals experienced in behavior interventions, utilizing the child's individualized education program (IEP) in school, and accessing appropriate resources can provide valuable support in this journey.

Addressing Aggression in Autism

Aggression is a challenging behavior that some children with autism may exhibit. It's important for parents and caregivers to understand and address this behavior in a supportive and effective manner. In this section, we will explore the topic of aggression in children with autism and discuss medication and behavior management strategies.

Aggression in Children with Autism

More than half of kids and teens with autism may display physical aggression towards caregivers or others, including hitting, kicking, and biting. The likelihood of self-harm tends to be higher in older kids and teens, especially if they have difficulty with communication, while younger children with autism are more likely to direct their aggression towards others.

Understanding the underlying causes of aggression in children with autism is crucial. Aggression can arise due to various factors such as sensory sensitivities, communication difficulties, frustration, anxiety, or an inability to express needs and emotions effectively. It is essential to approach the behavior with empathy and seek professional guidance to develop appropriate strategies for managing aggression.

Medication and Behavior Management

Medication can play a role in managing aggression in children and teens with autism. Risperidone and Aripiprazole have been found to be effective in reducing irritability and aggression in individuals with autism. However, it's important to note that medications used to address behavior problems may have side effects, including weight gain. Health care providers can consider other medications to help children and teens maintain a healthy weight, such as Metformin.

Behavior management strategies are also instrumental in addressing aggression in children with autism. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a widely recognized and evidence-based approach that can help modify aggression and other challenging behaviors. ABA focuses on identifying the triggers and functions of aggression and using positive reinforcement techniques to promote appropriate behavior.

In addition to medication and ABA, counseling and therapy can provide valuable support for both the child with autism and their family. Counseling can help individuals with autism develop coping strategies, social skills, and emotional regulation techniques. It can also offer guidance to parents and caregivers on how to effectively manage aggression and provide a safe and nurturing environment for their child.

By utilizing a combination of medication, behavior management techniques, and therapeutic interventions, parents and caregivers can address aggression in children with autism more effectively. It's important to consult with healthcare professionals, behavior specialists, and therapists who can provide individualized guidance and support based on the specific needs of the child.

Sleep and Behavior in Autism

Sleep plays a crucial role in the behavior and overall well-being of individuals with autism. Addressing sleep problems is essential for improving behavior and daily functioning. Let's explore the impact of sleep on behavior and the available treatments for managing sleep-related issues in autism.

Sleep's Impact on Behavior

Good sleep has been shown to have a positive impact on various areas of behavior in children and teens with autism. According to Autism Speaks, children and teens who are good sleepers have shown improvements in talking, social skills, and daily living skills. These skills include tasks such as getting dressed, brushing teeth, and preparing food. The link between sleep and behavior underscores the importance of addressing sleep problems in individuals with autism.

Behavioral Treatments and Counseling

Treating sleep problems in individuals with autism is pivotal for improving behavior and overall well-being. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a commonly used treatment approach that can be effective in addressing sleep-related challenges. ABA focuses on modifying behavior through positive reinforcement and structured interventions.

Counseling can also be beneficial for individuals with autism who experience sleep difficulties. Counseling sessions can help individuals develop healthy sleep habits, address anxiety or other emotional issues that may interfere with sleep, and provide strategies for improving sleep quality.

In some cases, medications may be prescribed to manage sleep problems in individuals with autism. Medications such as Risperidone and Aripiprazole can help reduce irritability and aggression, but it's important to note that these medications may cause weight gain. It's essential to consult with a healthcare provider or specialist to determine the most appropriate treatment approach for addressing sleep problems in autism.

By addressing sleep-related issues through behavioral treatments, counseling, and, when necessary, medication, individuals with autism can experience improved behavior, better overall well-being, and enhanced quality of life. It's essential to involve healthcare professionals, therapists, and support networks in developing a comprehensive plan to address sleep problems and their impact on behavior.

Parental Challenges and Support

Raising a child with autism comes with its own set of unique challenges, particularly when it comes to managing behavior. Parents of children with autism often find themselves facing various struggles in dealing with their child's behavior. However, it's important to remember that support and resources are available to help navigate these challenges.

Parental Struggles with Behavior

Parents of children with autism who have significant behavior problems often find it challenging to feel good about being a parent and to maintain friendships. The constant demands and stress associated with managing behavior can take a toll on parental well-being. It's crucial for parents to recognize that they are not alone in these struggles and that seeking support is essential for their own mental health.

Addressing problem behaviors in children with autism requires a comprehensive approach. Seeking help from professionals such as board-certified behavior analysts (BCBA or BCBA-Doctorate) or psychologists experienced in behavior interventions can guide parents in developing effective strategies. These professionals can assist in creating behavior intervention plans (BIPs) tailored to target specific problem behaviors. Collaborating with the child's individualized education program (IEP) team at school can also be beneficial, as it may provide access to services and a behavior intervention plan within the school setting.

It's important for parents to prioritize self-care and seek support from their friends, family, and community. Online support groups and organizations specifically dedicated to autism provide safe environments for connecting with others who share similar experiences. These platforms can foster mental health, offer advice, and build social skills.

Resources for Support

When it comes to dealing with autism behavior problems, numerous resources are available to support parents and families. Here are some valuable resources that parents can turn to for assistance:

  • Autism Speaks: Autism Speaks provides a wide range of behavioral resources for parents, including information on applied behavior analysis (ABA), counseling, medications, and strategies for managing behavior problems. Their resources are designed to improve the overall well-being of both the affected child and the entire family.
  • Marcus Autism Center: The Marcus Autism Center offers tips, resources, and support for tackling problem behaviors in children with autism. They emphasize the importance of seeking guidance from professionals experienced in behavior interventions, as well as utilizing services available through the child's IEP at school.
  • Online Support Groups: Online support groups provide a platform for individuals with autism and their families to connect and share experiences. Organizations such as the Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network, Asperger/Autism Network Support Groups, Grupo Salto, and The Color of Autism Foundation offer a safe space for individuals to find support, build relationships, and access valuable resources.

By recognizing the struggles and seeking support, parents can find the guidance and resources necessary to navigate and effectively manage behavior problems associated with autism. Remember, reaching out for help is a sign of strength and can make a significant difference in the well-being of both the child and the entire family.

Communication Strategies for Autism

Effective communication is vital for individuals with autism to navigate the world and express their needs and emotions. Implementing appropriate communication strategies can greatly enhance their ability to interact with others. In this section, we will explore two key approaches for improving communication skills and utilizing alternative methods of communication.

Improving Communication Skills

Therapists, such as applied behavior analysts, play a crucial role in helping individuals with autism improve their communication skills. They utilize various techniques tailored to the specific needs of each individual. These techniques may include:

  • Communication Boards: Communication boards are visual aids that display a range of words, symbols, or pictures that individuals can use to communicate their thoughts and needs. By pointing or gesturing to the appropriate image, individuals can express themselves effectively.
  • Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS): PECS is a structured method that uses pictures to teach individuals with autism how to initiate and engage in communication. Through a series of steps, individuals learn to exchange specific pictures with a communication partner to convey their desires or thoughts.
  • Speech Generating Devices (SGDs): SGDs are electronic devices that enable individuals with limited verbal abilities to communicate. These devices have pre-programmed or customizable buttons that produce spoken words or phrases when activated by the user.
  • Sign Language: Sign language, such as American Sign Language (ASL), can be highly beneficial for individuals with autism. Learning sign language not only facilitates communication but also opens doors to a wider community of ASL users. As of 2019, roughly 1 million people were using ASL, providing an opportunity for increased social interaction.

Utilizing Alternative Communication Methods

In addition to improving verbal communication skills, alternative methods of communication can play a significant role in supporting individuals with autism. These methods include:

  • Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Devices: AAC devices encompass a range of tools, including electronic devices, apps, or software, that aid individuals in expressing themselves. These devices can include text-to-speech capabilities, symbol-based communication, or even eye-tracking systems for those with limited motor skills.
  • Visual Supports: Visual supports, such as visual schedules, social stories, or visual cues, can assist individuals with autism in understanding and following daily routines, social expectations, and specific tasks. Visual supports provide a visual representation of information, making it easier for individuals to comprehend and navigate their environment.
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy, a widely used therapy for children with autism, can also incorporate communication strategies to help individuals overcome social challenges and improve their ability to communicate. ABA therapy aims to increase helpful behaviors and decrease harmful behaviors by utilizing positive reinforcement, rewarding desired behaviors to encourage their repetition.

By implementing these communication strategies and techniques, individuals with autism can enhance their communication skills, bridge the gap in understanding, and increase their ability to connect with others effectively. It is important to work closely with therapists and professionals who specialize in autism to develop individualized strategies that cater to the unique needs and strengths of each individual.