Assessing The Aggressive Behavior
How can ABA therapy be used to properly manage and control aggressive behavior in children with autism? The first step is to assess the scope of the behavior.
A board certified behavior analyst will look at how often the child strikes, whom or what they strike , and even what exactly they do . Other factors to be assessed are the childs age, the times and settings of the behavior, and how strong they are. The tactics to control violence in a 2-year-old toddler are very different from those that would be used for a 15-year-old teen.
It is also important to determine when the aggression does not take place. If a child is consistently placated when they get something they want or allowed to be in a safe space for as long as they want to be, this gives the BCBA important details on how the violent behavior can be curbed or even stopped.
These details need to be developed with an eye on the long term. The solutions are not as simple as letting the child have what they want when they are upset.
The assessment should give the BCBA enough information to determine why the child is harming themselves or those around them. For example, some children will primarily strike people who tell them they cant have something they really want or who tell them to do something they dont want to do. Other children will only have an outburst when theyre bored, not engaged, or feeling ignored or misunderstood.
Make An Autism And Hitting Plan
After fully assessing the hitting, make a plan around how to prevent hitting. Once hitting starts, it can become dangerous for the child and for others. Making a plan is really going to be helpful if, while you were assessing, you checked when the behavior happened, as well as when the behavior never happened. Most people are way too reactive to problem behaviors and we need to turn that around and look for ways to prevent problem behaviors. You might want to increase the activities for your child or client that dont cause a hitting reaction.
Now, if they like swimming in the pool, you wouldnt be able to use that plan all year long. The child or client also might not hit when using an iPad, and you certainly dont want to let a child play with screens all day long. As you increase some of the preferred activities, also increase reinforcement for not hitting during those times. Make a plan to increase demands and slowly fade out some of those reinforcing activities. That way, when it is winter and you cant go to the pool, you can still work with the child on not hitting.
Why These Behaviours Happen
Many autistic children have difficulties with communication, which can affect their behaviour.
Some things that can cause these behaviours include:
- being oversensitive to things like bright lights or loud noises
- being undersensitive to things like touch or pain
- anxiety, especially when routines suddenly change
- not being able to make sense of what’s going on around them
- being unwell or in pain
These behaviours are not your or your child’s fault.
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Pharmacological Treatments Of Aggression
The combined negative impact and frequent occurrence of aggressive behavior in individuals with ASD have been factors in driving the focus of pharmacologic research on ASD-associated irritability over the last 50 years. Second-generation antipsychotics are the most commonly employed first-line pharmacotherapy options for the treatment of aggression in ASD. Following several large randomized, placebo-controlled trials that demonstrated robust reduction in aggressive behavior with treatment in youth with ASD, risperidone and aripiprazole were approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of irritability in this population. First-generation antipsychotics, antiepileptic medications , mood stabilizers, and several glutamatergic modulators are also frequently employed for the treatment of ASD-associated irritability, though with less robust evidence supporting their use .
Autism In The Classroom: How To Handle Behavior Challenges
Children with autism typically use behaviors to communicate their wants, needs, anxieties, and frustrations.;
These behaviors can include:;
- Refusing to follow directives
While behaviors are important communication tools, some behaviors can disrupt learning in a classroom setting. Various interventions teach children with autism new skills that help them develop acceptable ways to communicate, socialize, and function.
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Faq: Dealing With Aggression
Welcome to a week long set of posts dedicated to your frequently asked questions. I pulled these reoccurring themes from emails, comments, and facebook. If a bunch of people have the same concern there are probably more of you too! Figured Id start with a bang literally how to deal with aggression. Aggression is hands down the most critical, important, and time sensitive issue to deal with in your classroom1 Because lets be honest it doesnt matter how organized you are, what math curriculum you are using, how you are charting your data if you are getting punched in the face. Right? Before you can even think of tackling any other issues you have GOT to decrease aggression.
If you were hoping for a magic cure all solution in this post Im sad to disappoint you. But you can follow the same steps with all aggressive behaviors to determine the appropriate intervention.
Determine the Function of the Behavior
Bottom line: All behaviors are done to get something. Every behavior in life. I scratch my nose to relieve the itch, I push the door shut to remove the cold breeze, I text on my phone to access attention from friends. Its the same with aggression. Every behavior has a function . You need to figure out the function of aggression before intervening. Check out this post for more detailed info on identifying function. It basically comes down to two options, the aggressive behaviors are done to:
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Distract And Redirect Problematic Behavior Instead Of Saying Stop Or No
For example, if the child is running in the store, remind him or show him how to walk nicely. If necessary, find something interesting to show him and call his attention to it, rather than focusing on the problematic behavior. If he is running in the hall at school, redirect him back to the line, with a short directive such as, Come back to your spot in line or remind him to walk in the hallway. For children with trouble understanding language, try demonstrating what is expected or use a gesture, rather than just giving the verbal direction.
How To Manage Self
Aggressive behavior is often also self-injurious. Self-injurious behaviors are, unfortunately, not unusual for kids with autism. These behaviors could be anything from biting, hitting, or even banging their head on the walls.
Watching your children hurt themselves is one of the worst things to experience as a parent. As parents, we want to protect them and help comfort them, but they may push us aside , so they can continue with the behavior.
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Managing Aggressive Behavior In Children With Autism
Written by: Amber Valentino
Aggressive behavior is something that parents or caregivers of children with autism may deal with on a regular basis. This type of behavior can be scary, frustrating, and emotionally draining for both the parent and child. Today, Trumpet Behavioral Health is discussing why children with autism may engage in aggressive behaviors and providing some tips parents and caregivers can use to manage this type of behavior.
Respond To The Behavior Consistently
If you deal with your childs aggressive behavior one way on Monday and a completely different way on Tuesday, they will likely be confused and even more frustrated, leading to more severe or other types of aggressive behavior.;
Respond to your childs aggression quickly. Use your forearm or a soft surface such as a pillow to stop your child from hitting themselves, and limit your verbal expressions. Dont shout, and try to use as few words as possible. You should also refrain from making facial expressions, as this may inadvertently reinforce their aggressive behavior.
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How To Handle Aggression In Children With Autism
Even if you avoid reinforcing aggressive behavior and use preventative strategies to reduce situations which cause aggression, you likely wont be able to prevent every single instance. When your child behaves aggressively, follow these tips:
- Stay calm. You may be frustrated, but becoming visibly angry can escalate your childs behavior. Maintain a calm voice and a neutral facial expression.
- Follow the plan. If your child engages in aggressive behavior often, your therapy team will have created a response plan. Consistency is key, so be sure to follow your childs plan every time the aggression occurs.
- Reward your child for moving on. Once the aggression is over, positively reinforce appropriate behavior. This can help motivate your child to engage in desired behaviors, rather than engage in aggressive behavior.
When your child with autism exhibits aggressive behavior, it can be scary and overwhelming. The Trumpet team is trained to identify causes of this behavior and help your child find safer ways to communicate. Contact us today to learn more about how we can support your family, or find an ABA therapy location near you to schedule an assessment.
Incredible Adam And A Day With Autism: An Illustrated Story Inspired By Social Narratives
Ander opened his mouth and screamed at her, flapping his arms so that one palm smacked the glass breakfast table making it jump a bit. Nora jumped herself, backing up slightly. She couldnt help it: she was actually feeling afraid of her own son. He had hit the table so hardIt wasnt supposed to be this wayshe thought to herself.
And then, in a sudden burst of movement, Ander jumped up, ran towards her, and tackled her. Nora fell backward, her elbow cracked against the tile floor, and the impact knocked the air from her chest. She was gulping like a hooked fish when Ander landed his first punch on her cheekbone. The next one caught her neck and the third her right ear, and her head reverberated with shrill ringing. Finally, with a gasp, she filled her lungs, but she couldnt push free. Ander was stronger. So she cried helplessly as her baby boy howled and beat her. The once chubby hands that used to grasp at toy cars had become powerful fists that continued striking her until, mercifully, her husband opened the front door. Then it stopped as quickly as it had begun; Peter was still strong enough to pull Ander away from Norafor now.
After the barking dog woke her, Nora wondered through her familiar exhaustion whether she really knew her own child, knew how to care for him, what he needed, or even knew how to be a good parent. She closed her eyes and willed the barking to stop. When it finally did, she exhaled, not even realizing shed been holding her breath.
Dealing With Aggressive Outbursts From Autistic Children And Teenagers
You probably cant prevent every outburst from your autistic child. So its important for you to have some strategies to deal with the aggressive behaviour when it happens.
Stay calm This is the first and most important thing. Most aggressive outbursts happen because your child has feelings building up and cant communicate them. By managing your own feelings and staying calm and quiet, you wont add your emotions to the mix.
Limit what you say During an outburst your child will be feeling very stressed. Its hard to process what someone else is saying when youre feeling stressed, and this is especially true for autistic children, who can have trouble understanding language.
So it can help if you dont say too much. Aim for short phrases or even just a couple of words for example, Sit down rather than Lachlan, come over here and sit down.
Move your child to a safer place For everyones safety, make sure your child isnt close to anything that could be harmful for example, shelves that could fall over or glass objects. A quiet enclosed space outside might be an option. You might also need to get other people to move out of the way for safety.
Consider visual cues Visual cues can help in these situations. For example, you might have a picture of a quiet place in your home that your child can go to.
In The Midst Of The Crisis
But what if you, like so many of us, miss the early warning signs, and your child appears alarmingly close to damaging your home or hurting someone or himself?
One thing is certain, theres no way to rationally work through a behavioral crisis in the midst of one. Safety becomes the priority, and this may mean calling 911. However, here are some guidelines that can help keep everyone safe.
Looking beyond the crisis
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Anger Aggression & Autism
People with autism have more trouble with aggressive outbursts than their neurotypical peers. In neurotypical children, boys tend to exhibit aggression more frequently than girls. But girls with autism are just as likely to express aggression as boys on the spectrum.
Anger and aggression are common across all levels of the autism spectrum. Children who struggle with more substantial social and communication issues, as well as those who engage in more repetitive behaviors, are more likely to have problems with emotional regulation and aggressive actions.
Anger and aggression can be one of the most problematic issues related to autism. It can lead to difficulties at school and home, and result in harm to the child and others. Aggression can be directed outwardly toward caregivers or peers, or it can be self-directed in the form of self-harm.
One of the most important roles of a parent is to keep their child, and those around the child, safe and healthy. When a child with autism frequently struggles with anger and aggression, its important for parents to learn what triggers these outbursts. Once the triggers are identified, methods to manage them can be implemented.
Avoid Reinforcing Aggressive Behavior
Once you understand why your child is engaging in aggressive behavior, be careful not to reinforce it. Consider a child who hits you to get candy. If you give your child candy to stop their aggression, you may be reinforcing the behavior and your child may learn that hitting is a successful way to get candy. To ensure youre not reinforcing your childs aggressive behavior, your therapy team will provide support and training on how best to prevent and react to aggressive behavior.
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Rule Out Or Address Underlying Medical And Sensory Problems
First and foremost, its important to have your child evaluated for underlying medical and sensory issues that may be contributing to the meltdowns. Examples include the pain of GI distress, disrupted sleep and sensitivities to a jarring new school environment. So if you havent already, please consult with your childs therapist and physician about evaluation possibilities.
Nonpharmacological Treatment Of Aggression
Learning theory and operant behavior principles form the basis for current behavioral treatments of aggression in ASD. These principles rely on careful observation and definition of behavior, as well as the recognition that behavior serves a purpose . There has been tremendous evolution of behavioral technology encompassing a number of strategies that can be used in an applied manner to increase useful behavior and reduce harmful behaviors. Considered together, these strategies are known as applied behavioral analysis. The applied behavior analytic strategies described later have met criteria as evidence-based practices for the treatment of challenging behavior in autism in numerous studies, with their effectiveness being reaffirmed in recent research detailed next.,
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