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How to manage severe challenging behaviors in children?

behavioral approaches for children with severe autism

Every parent has been there – trying to teach a child not to throw a tantrum when you tell them playtime is over or getting a child to stop biting other children who take their toys.

Although frustrating, these behaviors are common in all children. However, a major difference between children with autism and children without autism is how and when they learn why these behaviors are not acceptable and how they should react instead.

First, it’s important to understand why children with autism may engage in challenging behaviors. Experts believe there are four main reasons: sensory stimulation, escape, attention, and access to preferred items. Children with autism often use challenging behaviors to communicate what they want and need.

It may be more difficult to manage challenging or problematic behaviors in children with autism, but it is certainly not impossible. Keep reading to learn some behavioral approaches for children with severe autism or a behavior disorder. Remember that these approaches are useful at home, but the best way for children with autism to develop and become independent is through a combination of at-home and in-center care.

The registered behavior technicians at Therapeutic Pathway’s Behavior Centers are knowledgeable and experienced in providing the best comprehensive care for children of all ages with autism. Contact us at (209) 422-3280 today for more information.


Managing Severe Behaviors in Children With Autism

Communicate your expectations clearly.

Challenging or problematic behaviors often occur in children with autism because they have trouble communicating their feelings, emotions, or desires. In the same vein, children with autism often have trouble understanding what other people mean or what their expectations are.

Try and tell your child exactly what you expect of them in clear, precise language. Avoid metaphors and question-driven instructions. For example, try not to say things like “You want a clean room, don’t you?” to get your child to clean their room. Instead try saying “ pick up your toys” or “put your clothes in your hamper”.

This method should be used as a preventive measure for challenging behaviors. It probably won’t work if you try to do this while your child is in the middle of a tantrum or other problematic behavior, but it can be enormously helpful in situations where you know what triggers your child’s behavior.


Focus on your child’s communication skills.

Imagine how frustrating it would be to want to say how you feel or what you’re thinking but being unable to. This is how many children with autism feel, and it’s a main reason why many children engage in challenging behaviors.

If your child has trouble speaking and telling you how they’re feeling, you can introduce visual aids, such as an iPad; pictures of preferred items; drawings on paper or a chalkboard that they can use to express themselves.


Be consistent.

If you’re the parent of a child with autism, chances are you already know that they thrive on consistency and predictability. Sudden changes and deviations from the ‘norm’ can make children with autism anxious and lead to challenging behavior.

Keep your behavior management methods as consistent as possible. A great way to do this is by aligning your behavior management strategies with your child’s teacher. This way, your child will know what to expect at home and school, and they’ll know that they can’t get away with something at home that they might at school, and vice versa.


Redirect the problem behavior to something more appropriate.

If your child with autism is engaging in a problematic behavior, your instinct might be to tell them to stop (“Stop hitting” “Stop running in the store!”). But often, instead of stopping the behavior, the child may feed off of your reaction and engage in even more severe behavior problems.

Instead of being overly explicit and labeling the behavior, try and redirect your child to do something more appropriate in the situation. For example, you could say “Hands in your pockets, please,” or “Remember how we walk in the store?” If your child has trouble understanding language, you can demonstrate instead of simply telling them what you’d like them to do instead.


Managing Challenging Behaviors in Children With Autism

If your child with autism is engaging in challenging or problematic behaviors, you’ll probably feel frustrated. You might try everything you can think of to get them to stop, but it just doesn’t work.

Children with autism learn and respond differently to situations than do other children. At Therapeutic Pathway’s Behavior Center, we recognize and follow science-based methods for reducing problem behavior. Our registered behavior technicians are adept at redirecting and teaching children and adults how to appropriately engage with others, communicate their feelings, and work through their emotions when they feel overwhelmed.

Call Therapeutic Pathways today at (209) 422-3280 to learn more about the programs offered at our Behavior Centers.