If you are the parent of a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder, then you know that managing some of your child’s challenging autism behaviors can be complicated and emotionally daunting. It is incredibly vital to learn as much as possible from reliable sources about your child’s behaviors and the purpose they serve.
Finding strategies to help manage your child’s challenging autism behaviors is necessary and sometimes even a safety precaution. Appropriate behavior leads to better opportunities and emotional well-being, making it a vital component of a functional life.
Behavior therapists recognize that behavior exhibited at four years old will be the same behaviors displayed at twenty years old in a person with autism. Unless there is some kind of intervention, symptoms can worsen and continue throughout life.
This blog post about managing complex autism behavior will explore eight parenting tips. We will also discuss some therapy options for children struggling with their behavior.
Some of the challenging autism behaviors that children may exhibit include:
- Repetitive behaviors: Many children with autism engage in repetitive behaviors such as rocking, dropping, jumping, spinning, or hand and arms flapping. These behaviors can be soothing for children and help them regulate in overwhelming situations.
- Self-stimulatory actions or stimming: a type of repetitive behavior such as humming, making noises, singing, or repeating words or phrases.
- Meltdowns: Meltdowns are a common occurrence for children with autism. They can be triggered by changes in routine, sensory overload, or frustration. Meltdowns usually involve crying, screaming, and in some cases, aggression or self-injuring behavior.
- Inappropriate social interactions: Children with autism may struggle with social interactions and peer engagement. They may have trouble establishing eye contact, honoring personal space, or engaging in topics that are not of high interest to them. This can make them seem odd or disinterested to people that don’t understand their condition.
There are a variety of symptom management approaches that parents can use to help manage unhelpful autism behaviors. Some of these include:
- Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA): This therapy uses positive reinforcement to increase appropriate behaviors and discourage destructive behaviors. ABA therapy is evidence-based and the golden standard for managing autism symptoms.
- Social skills training: This treatment helps children with autism develop the social skills they need to interact appropriately with others.
- Communication therapies: Speech pathologists can help children with autism improve their communication skills.
Below we explore 8 tips for managing challenging autism behaviors.
1. Try to understand why your neurodivergent child is engaging in the behavior.
For many parents, autism can be a puzzling and demanding condition. One of the most complex components of parenting a child on the spectrum is understanding why they are engaging in challenging behavior.
There are several valid reasons why a child with autism may behave in difficult ways for parents to manage. One reason may be that the child is experiencing sensory overload. Autism can make it difficult for a person to filter out all the stimuli around them, leading to frustration and behavioral outbursts.
Another possibility is that the child is trying to communicate their needs and cannot. Many children with autism have difficulty expressing themselves verbally, so they may resort to complex autism behaviors to get their point across.
During problematic autism behaviors like aggression or self-injury, parents must remember that their child is not acting out simply to be disobedient or deliberately defiant.
With patience, an optimistic approach, and dedication, it is possible to help a child with autism learn how to cope with their daily challenges and communicate their needs effectively.
2. Set rules and limits for behavior.
One of the best ways to reduce challenging behaviors in children with autism is to set rules and limits for the behavior and then stick to them. This may seem obvious, but prioritizing structure and consistency is one of the most effective ways to parent a child with autism.
For example, an ABA professional trying to teach a child to sit appropriately during circle time might structure intervals of two minutes of appropriate sitting. These intervals of proper behavior will be increased over time. When the child can effectively carry out the behavior, they are reinforced by a few minutes of free play with their favorite toy. This sets up the expectations that good things happen when they follow the rules and engage in appropriate behavior.
When children with autism recognize the expectations and consequences for not meeting those expectations, they are more likely to engage in more appropriate behavior. Of course, it is not always easy to stick to the plan and hold your ground as a parent and provider. But it’s worth it because it can make a difference in the child’s behavior and trust levels!
3. Reward good behavior with praise or a reward.
While some autism behaviors can be harmful or damaging over time, others are simply distracting or disruptive. One way to manage autism behaviors is to reward positive behavior with praise or a reward. This can help to encourage the child to continue behaving appropriately.
It is crucial to ensure that the recognition or reward is given immediately after the good behavior occurs. This ensures the child knows the behavior is being rewarded.
Additionally, being consistent in reinforcing good behavior is crucial. If a child knows that they will only receive a reward occasionally, they are less likely to be motivated to behave appropriately in the future.
Finally, ensuring that the reinforcers are meaningful to the child is essential. A child with autism may not be interested in the same things as a neurotypical child. Finding a reward or reinforcement system that is meaningful and motivating for them is essential.
4. Use visual supports to help your child comprehend expectations.
One strategy for modifying autism behaviors and coping is using visual aids to help your child understand expectations and what’s to come. For example, you can use a picture schedule to show your child what activities will take place during the day. This can help reduce challenging autism behaviors by giving your child a sense of control and predictability.
You can also use visual supports to teach new skills or routines. For instance, you can use flashcards to show your child how to perform the desired task. With a bit of creativity, visual aids can be an invaluable tool for parents of children with autism.
5. Stay calm and consistent when addressing problematic situations.
Knowing how to best respond to challenging autism behaviors from your child can be difficult as a parent. It is vital to remain calm and consistent in your approach. This will help your child feel safe and secure. Additionally, it will offer them a sense of stability that can be beneficial and reassuring.
7. Recognize that autism is a lifelong condition.
Autism Spectrum Disorder is a condition that affects the way an individual perceives and interacts with the world. Autism behaviors can be challenging for both the individual and their caregivers.
However, it’s important to remember that autism is not a choice, and there is no cure. Being neurodivergent is a lifelong condition that requires understanding, patience, and support.
8. Reduce stress levels.
Autism can be a stressful condition for both children and their parents. There are several ways to reduce stress levels in your home if you have a child with autism:
- Try to create a calm environment in your home. This may mean eliminating loud noises or bright lights, which can overwhelm children with autism.
- Be patient and use support with your child that you know to be effective.
- Take frequent breaks.
Children with autism often need extra time and support to navigate the world, and getting frustrated with them will only add to the stress levels in your home. By following these tips, you can create a more peaceful environment for your child with autism.
Managing Autism Behaviors and ABA Centers of America
You can use various strategies to address challenging autism behaviors. Finding what works best for your child may take trial and error. However, by remaining patient and flexible, you will be able to find an approach that is effective and helps your child excel. Finding the right strategies for your child may take time and patience, but it is worth the effort.
If you struggle to manage your child’s challenging autism behaviors, ABA Centers of America may be a great therapy option for your family. We understand autism behaviors and how to teach alternate solutions to work with a child’s strengths and abilities.
Autism parents are not alone. You can find ways to manage your child’s behavior with the proper support effectively. For a free consultation on ABA therapy, reach out to us at (772) 773-1975 or visit abacenters.com.