Behaviors- a few ideas

Behavior is something I think I will be working on with my kids, husband and self pretty much forever.  While I have some of our past techniques on working on behaviors in other places in my blog this is from 2 emails I recently posted to the POAC-NoVA list serv.  The names of the parents who posted the questions have been changed.  The ideas and techniques are mine, Lesley, Nick, Dr. Carbone, Tom Caffery and dozens of other people I have seen over the last 10 years.  These have worked with Dill but all kids on the spectrum are different so if you are consistent and it does not work than try something else!  Data really helps in seeing if you are actually being consistent and if it really is not working.  I hope this helps.

I hope this email finds you well.  We had a lot of difficulty when Dill was
younger with aggression towards his twin, older brother and even
us.  Head butting and biting was a big part of our lives.   It's so
stressful not to be able to turn your back on one of your children for fear
they will hurt the others.

Below are a few thoughts of things to try now from one parent to another...I
am no ABA guru just another parent but....a month from now Melissa Modaressi
an ABA guru will be teaching Managing Problems 1 and 2 for POAC-NoVA in our
boot camp! These kind of classes really transformed our family and Dill's
success (along with his efforts and lack of a dual diagnosis).

A couple of things I hope are helpful:
we worked on ignoring Dill's behavior of hurting us and the others which
while incredibly tough worked.  it worked because the behavior was attention
seeking or related to them having what he wanted.

example:  he would pinch me hard and I would walk away and say nothing.

we heavily comforted the victim and shielded them from Dill with our back to
him giving him again zero attention for his behavior. this can back fire in
that my daughter will occasionally make loud statements in hopes that we
jump in to help her now a days (8-9 years later) but we ignore her now too
because Dill is not aggressive and she ....well she can be if provoked and
they are almost the same siblings can argue no worry at a certain
age/level of ability.

example: Dill would bite Kat and we would race over to her encircling her in
our body and making sure she was okay while not saying anything to him and
then carry her away from him after a few minutes of attention to her in
front of him.

we found independent skills to keep Dill occupied 5, 10 or 15 minutes later
to remind him that he had things he could do besides seeking negative
attention AND maybe an hour or two later we would make time for
1:1 with him as ALL kids tend to act out when they want attention not just
the ones with autism.

example: shape sorters, mini cars with garage and ramps and duplos (large
legos) with hand over hand prompt to show putting them together and taking
them apart.

Lesley highlighted repeatedly (to death pretty much) in her managing problem
behaviors class that you really need to see what happens before the behavior
to determine it's function and then fix it.  So if you can try and observe
without being seen during a time of day this tends to occur it would be

Things were hard and scary when Dill was little (they are now as well but
more because of middle schoolers and less because of Dill) and if you have
time I hope this blog gives you so hope as I know I could have used some
when he was 3 as I would never have imagined things would turn out the way
they did.

Very Best,
Shannon aka PVBIA Momma
Mother of Dill-12, Kat -12 and Drew-13 wife of Kevin aka KAM

Hi Terry,(not her name)

Thanks for writing back and yes, behaviors escalate before going away 
good point.  Again, this is just thought from a completely untrained 
mother of 2-12 year old and a 13y.o  (thought I will say that 3 hormonal 
kids simultaneously should get me an honorarium somewhere)   further 
my child is not like your child none of our kids are the same as the 
spectrum is huge and I know Dill's aggressive behavior for this is 
attention seeking, escape and boredom though we have not seen it in 
almost 7 years.  Watch your child BEFORE the event to determine why it 
is happening.

Yes, all behaviors seem to escalate before extinction.  So if I hit you 
and you ignore me I will test the hitting (crying, tantrum, spitting) 
repeatedly before giving it up just to make sure I can't get you to 
respond because I enjoyed the response or I would not be doing it 
again!  Perhaps hitting you harder, more often or at less expected times 
will get you to respond.  If the behavior is attention seeking or 
boredom (lack of independent skill) and you ignore it (or most things) 
it will stop after it gets worse for a time.  This is how I addressed 
the issue when Dill was an early to intermediate learner.  How I address 
this now that he is an advanced learner (not older as age does not 
dictate level of learner but more aware)  that info is below and very 
different so pick which level your child is and again only if it's 
attention or boredom.

example: your child cries loudly at the mall and you give in and leave 
after 3 minutes of crying.  your child will cry for 6-7 minutes and 
louder with the hope that you will again leave. (sidebar ...the people 
at the mall don't matter but helping your child does so give yourself a 
break and don't let their stare or glare determine your behavior...they 
have ZERO idea how hard what your doing is and it's none of their 
business)  it's the same idea as they know what affects a change based 
on their behavior.  so, I hit and things get exciting for a few minutes 
and that stimulates me because previously I did not have much chance of 
that level of stimulation. always good to catch them just before and 
redirect so that they think doing something fun is more their style than 
hitting.  the response is pretty key.  yelling, grabbing the child and 
chasing them for some kids can all be rewarding bad behaviors.  some 
people think that positive reinforcement is the only reinforcement kids 
want but typical kids act out for negative attention as well so 
unfortunately this is not the case.

The hitting a stranger thing for our son happened when he was pretty 
young and a very early learner so this might be different for you.   I 
would say blocking is the most important thing and shield the stranger 
and apologies ALL without looking at your child or addressing them in 
the moment IF this is to gain your or the strangers attention.  Maybe a 
script on a printed card if this happens often with the quick words from 
you like,"I am so son has autism and we are working hard to 
reduce this behavior."  Please not the excuse card some people hand out 
about how my child has autism and give me a break because I want your 
pity not understanding (I use to keep a few before I decided I don't 
want pity and neither does Dill).  Walk away child in hand and say 
nothing to your child in the moment waiting till later with either a 
social story when things are calm about future loss of privileges based 
on inability to control yourself and again work on praising the great 
times when the behavior does not happen.  If hitting happens someplace 
fun or on the way to someplace fun I would leave immediately.  Allowing 
your child to stay really means you have strengthened the behavior.   
Caution on this though as the child might be hitting to get out of going 
where ever your going.  If this is the case I would not leave for a few 
minutes and suck up the misery/isolation that is your knowing your child 
just hit someone in public and that feeding the behavior by leaving 
because that is what they want only strengthens that behavior and it 
will get worse as all behaviors seem to get worse before they get better 
from my limited experience.

Terry, I know that you don't think your child will mature out of 
behaviors or get better with age or you would not have asked this 
question so this is not for you but for anyone still reading the book I 
am writing in email (apologies for being long winded) be aware we have 
many families though who actually think their child will somehow change 
for the better without intervention, efforts or behavior modification so 
it is vital to get behaviors fixed now if your child is 4 or 14 they 
really only get stronger, bigger and faster and the behaviors will 
become so much stronger with time and reinforcement (negative or 
positive) fixing them now will only make this easier later.  By the way 
the school can't fix your child at home!   The school will have a much 
harder time fixing your child at school if you don't help as you see 
your child way more than they do.  If your child's teacher is having 
success with your child I would ask them for help and suggestions.

Second to last, some people chose to self isolate so that they don't see 
"stranger" which makes it incredibly hard for the child to have any 
quality of life later.  Just because you don't buy ice cream anymore 
because your child has self control issues does not mean that your child 
has LEARNED self control....address the issues don't find ways around 
seeing them pop up or you aren't helping your child.    This blog is old 
but addresses some of that

Lastly, (Terry, I don't know your son) but Dill is 12, taller than me 
and an advanced learner.  When Dill pushed someone in the locker room 
during PE 2 weeks after they hit him repeatedly in the privates with a 
ball during class or grabs his sister (who does bait him occasionally) I 
address this very differently. If Dill grabs Kat (he does not hit or 
push) even if she instigated he loses!  These behaviors were frustration 
and increases with hormones for my son.  We have talked at length about 
the repercussion of being physical with someone and how prisons are 
filled with people who were baited by others and people with autism.  
Hopefully anyone having this conversation will be kind to their child 
the first time few times they give the speech and grow increasingly more 
direct about your freedom and choices are linked to your 
behavior...something I really think people should consider before not 
addressing behavior.

Very last because I love to attempt creative solutions I would for your 
son create the situation you know he is most likely to hit in with 
"stranger" who are actually people you have asked to meet you somewhere 
to work on this so that they are primed to ignore this behavior and you 
are primed to remove him from something fun so that he feels the sadness 
of not getting what he wants and they are prepared to completely ignore 
this behavior.  I would do this a couple times if that's what it takes 
and start taking data on it so you know when it's happening and what 
motivates it.

I am just a parent so please don't mistake me for someone who does this 
for a living or even does it well...thought I know a BCBA or two I would 
let analyze my 2 cat and their liter box issues (something I haven't 
figured out yet) because they know absolutely nothing about our kids or 
how to create success for them.

Best of Luck and All for our Kids,


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