Why do we do what we do? The functions of behavior are the reasons that people behave in a certain way. Behind every behavior is an explanation of why that behavior occurred. These functions are attention, tangible, automatic reinforcement, and escape. Applied behavior analysis relies on demonstrating the function of the behavior which leads to effective interventions.
The person engages in a behavior in order to gain attention from peers, parents, teachers, or therapists. This includes trying to gain access to social attention.
For example, if your child is screaming and you walk over and console them, they are getting the attention that they desired when the behavior started. On the other hand, if you do not give them attention and instead ignore the behavior, it will decrease over time.
Another example is a child who puts soap on his face when he washes his hands and then looks directly over to you for a reaction. This is a clear attention seeking behavior and should be ignored. On the other side is negative attention which can also reinforce a behavior. For example, a family brings their son to a party but the child does not want to be there. The child screams and yells until the parents bring him home and in this situation his behavior has been negatively reinforced.
The person engages in a behavior in order to access either an item they desire or an activity. You have most likely seen this at your own home or out in public.
For example, a child throws a tantrum and drops to the floor at the grocery store when you deny him access to candy. It is common for parents to panic and immediately hand the child a piece of a candy to stop the crying, which will in only reinforce the crying. The child is throwing a tantrum because he wanted the candy but cannot get it.
Another example is a child hitting his brother on the back while his brother is playing a video game he likes. The brother ends up giving him the game controller because he does not want to be hit anymore.
The person engages in a behavior in order to escape a task, person, or activity. This is common in schools when students misbehave in class in order to get sent to the principal’s office. Once they are sent to the office, they have successfully escaped the classroom assignment that was given on that day.
Another example is a toddler throwing food from the plate to the floor repeatedly until the parents say out of frustration “Ok, dinner is done”. The child has managed to escape the task of eating dinner. Below is a ABC data chart that is normally done by registered behavior technicians to further break down the causes of the behavior.
The person engages in a behavior because it “feels good” to them. These behaviors are called self-stimulatory, which is where the term “stimming” comes from. These behaviors can help some children relax and in other cases it can show they are excited.
Picture a student in the classroom spinning a pencil over and over, another student humming loudly, and the third student is clapping. These are all stimming behaviors and each student is automatically reinforcing these behaviors. Many adults engage in automatic reinforcement with nail biting. Here is a reminder about reinforcement!
Long hair can be a problem. Food could get in it, your child could bite it or try to chew on it, or it could be constantly dirty and difficult to keep clean.
Eventually, your child on the spectrum will need a haircut! This can be a major challenge for parents. All of the different sounds and sensations that come along with getting your haircut can be a complete sensory overload. Here are tips to help make this a smooth process!
1. Don’t surprise your child. Allow them to plan ahead and prepare for the haircut beforehand. Include a social story to explain what happens when you do go to get the haircut so there are no big unexpected events. Reminders about the haircut on the days leading up to it can help them be more at ease.
2. Often times, a child on the spectrum will be extremely sensitive to certain noises and sensations, especially around the ears. Introduce them to hair clippers and the sounds they make. Desensitize your child to the vibrations and sounds of the clippers. When you arrive at the Salon, the tools being used will already be familiar. Use ear plugs to block out the noise.
3. Bring a preferred item to take the child’s mind off getting a haircut. This could be anything that is reinforcing to them and they play with a lot at home. Some examples are a tablet, animal toys, iPod with favorite songs, fidgets, coloring books, or a small toy train that they love. Pack a bag of possible items they would use as a coping skill or to calm down when feeling scared.
4. Pack your child’s favorite snack (I suggest more than one). A haircut can be a frightening experience for them and at times the sensory overload may become too much. This is when a break involving a snack will come in handy. Explain that “we can take a break now and come back and do more after we have a snack”. Just as adults, children with autism need time to regulate themselves when they become agitated, this break time will provide an opportunity to relax.
5. Use positive reinforcement and reward them for getting a haircut. Remember that this is an overwhelming experience and remind them that they have a treat waiting either at home or in the car when the haircut is done. This could be a new toy, a frappe at McDonald’s, or a trip to play mini golf in the summer. Anything the child will look forward to and ease some of the stress.
6. Find a hairdresser who does home visits. If this is not possible, choose the time and day that you go to the salon wisely. Find out what the quietest times of business are. Less people equals less noise and a calmer environment.
7. Model it! Use a modeling video to show another child getting their haircut. This will give the child an idea of what to expect. Below is a video that can be used for modeling.
The first step towards getting a job can be intimidating. Teenagers with autism often need extra support when applying for positions. A perfect place to start is by having a conversation with your child to discuss interests and skills, but most important is passion.
What is their passion and greatest interest in life? What will motivate them to take this passion to the level of earning money and possibly building a career? Before you begin looking at job opportunities for your teenager, first figure out what they actually enjoy doing and want to do. What are they interested in? For example, an animal lover may look for jobs as a dog walker or working at an animal shelter. Someone who enjoys math and likes numbers may want to try and find a position working a cash register. Remember, you want your child to earn money but you also want them to be happy.
It is important to be realistic with your child about whether their skills match what they are attaining to do. In other words, every person has a unique set of skills and strengths. It is best to match those strengths with jobs where it would help them excel. A person who is organized, comfortable talking on the telephone, knowledgeable about cars, and works well with others would not realistically be able to become a construction worker.
Think about the individual strengths and weaknesses.
How can your child improve their skills with more training or school? Finding opportunities in the community to further learn and build competencies can help boost a resume and provide valuable experience for joining the future workforce. Volunteer opportunities where you can practice vital skills that will be used later in your career can help make for a more appealing job candidate.
Another option would be an internship. At an internship, your child could see what kind of worker they are and if further support is needed. In this case, a contract that includes a performance review at the end would be helpful.
What else can you do to prepare your child for entering the workforce?
If a job does not come right away, remember that it normally takes a person numerous interviews, phone calls, and follow ups to get hired. Don’t give up and continue to have a positive attitude!
The following video is about Jimmy and is the perfect example of turning your passion into employment! Good luck on your hunt!
Throughout the history of time, music has been a powerful way for people to come together and engage with one another. Music class is included in schools everywhere because of the many benefits it can bring. Specifically, for children on the ASD spectrum, music provides unique sensory experiences. The various sounds, tones, and melodies provide a new experience for the children.
Many children with autism are either non-verbal or currently developing verbal skills. These children have difficulty expressing themselves. Music can be an outlet for expression and help children discover new sides of themselves and also see the world in a different way. It can help with anxiety by allowing the child a method of releasing tension and stress that they otherwise would not be able to express.
Playing music can encourage a child to be more social and communicate with other children. When we look at a band playing a concert, we see that all of the musicians are working together cohesively and building off the sounds that each person is making. Introducing musical instruments can help facilitate positive interactions with others.
Think about when you hear a new song on the radio that you like. You immediately will begin to have your own interpretation of the lyrics and the instruments used. The song could help you learn a new word or expression. The song could help you better understand a certain social situation or give you a new perspective. Seeing and understanding the world from someone else’s view is a valuable and important life skill.
Putting children together to play or listen to music can help them interact with one another and build the confidence needed to make that big step towards initiating a conversation. These types of activities often lead to dancing which not only provides exercise for the children but it also helps build fine motor skills and stimulates the senses. Most importantly, music is fun!
Hooper, Wigram, Carson, & Lindsay (2011) concluded that a practitioner can use “musical experiences to develop a relationship that promotes health by resolving an individual’s physical, emotional and psychological difficulties” or can promote “health by providing music as a stimulus to reduce or eliminate inappropriate behaviors that tend to be considered an ‘unhealthy’” (p. 23).
One of our Registered Behavior Technicians and a current Masters level student in ABA has started a music program at Positive Synergy. I got a chance to talk with Johnny about this and he said the following: “These past few months have been very exciting at Positive Synergy.
After nearly a year in the making, the music program is up and running and has been very well received by both our kiddos and staff alike. The music program concentrates on further developing gross and fine motor skills, honing in on listening and imitation skills, promoting interaction and cooperation among all of the students, and most importantly, providing an outlet for the students to plug in and express themselves with the multitude instruments that are offered.
The Positive Synergy music program is excited to further grow with group sessions, as well as incorporating music in ABA sessions and providing individual lessons with regards to piano, bass, and drums. This summer is going to "ROCK!”.
Below is Excerpt from the full-length documentary:
MUSIC IS MY THERAPY
You may have heard the term “self-care” floating around lately. So what is it? Self-care is the things you do for the most important person in your life……yourself!
Sounds crazy doesn’t it? Your kids, significant other, pets, work are those who receive the most from you. However, in order for all the special people in your life to receive the best care from you, you need to care for yourself. I know, I know how in the world are you supposed to find time for that?
Sometimes, you have to demand that time or be real creative in making time for yourself. Some of us are lucky enough to have extra help at home when you need to just take some space. Other times, we are the only person we have in getting stuff done day after day. Regardless of your situation, it is important to find ways you can cater to your own needs.
My self-care routine usually entails a workout once a week, painting my nails one night a week, and taking an hour each Saturday to go wherever I want to (for example, driving to Target 5 towns away just to take a drive).
Your self-care might involve gardening, lighting candles at night to relax, and enjoying a hike in the woods. This is the most beautiful aspect of self-care, you get to pick what you do for yourself! Self-care also does not mean you have to perform these activities alone. You could take your kids out for ice cream or make time to see a friend you have not had a chance to see very often.
No matter what you decide is best for your situation, it is important to remember one thing. It is not at all selfish to recognize small things you can do for yourself each week in order to perform all the roles you are involved in. Being a parent is the most demanding role of all.
The sacrifices you perform for your children are seen daily. Your children will benefit from seeing you perform self-care for yourself. This can also assist in you teaching your child to recognize what they do for themselves for self-care.