Behavior Management for Children with Delays

Behavior Management for Children with Delays

Parenting a special child comes with special challenges and requires greater attention to lots of areas of your child’s life. One of the main aspects that parents need to focus on is the behavior management. Autism Spectrum comes with numerous behavior issues like anger, tantrums, mood swings etc. Sometimes the challenges of autism (e.g. sensory input, motor planning, social aspects, etc.) can require a little extra creativity in terms of designing an approach that is beneficial and motivating for a specific child. However, if implemented appropriately, the addition of various intervention techniques can address some of these specific challenges, increase self-confidence and social interactions and reduce stress in times of meltdowns. Managing behavior can be tricky but thanks to the research and ease of access, you as parents will find it easier to modify behavior of your kids and yield successful results. So, worry not and read on.

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ABCs of Behavior

To manage or confront a behavior issue, it’s important to understand the reasons behind a particular behavior. What your child feels is very real. His/her emotions are stronger and therefore we cannot dismiss them off.

A Antecedents- What triggers the behavior

B Behavior- Your child’s response to a trigger

C Consequence (Rewards)- What your child gets out of the behavior

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The main task is to work on your child’s challenging behavior by either changing the triggers or the rewards. This will happen slowly and will need the parent to make changes in how they react and deal with everyday situations that in turn will help the child. Parents need to start by focusing or choosing a behavior they want to change. Then, they need to identify what causes that behavior and what are the consequences to it. Once you understand the triggers the behavior and what your child is getting out of it, the last step is to make changes using this information. All this needs to be done using strategies discussed below

  • Acknowledge his concerns and emotions: Do not brush aside his fears or tell him not to worry. His emotions are very real. Acknowledge his emotions and give them words. ‘I know you really wanted to go bowling. I can see that you are angry that our plans have changed.’ Speak clearly and precisely using short sentences. Support the child to communicate their wants, needs and physical pain or discomfort.
  • Celebrate and build strengths and successes: Applaud him when he does well and what you like. A sense of competence often fosters interest and motivation. Strive to give positive feedback much more frequently than any correction or negative feedback. ‘Great job on making your bed!’
  • Respect and listen: You may have to look for the things he is telling you, verbally or through his choices or actions. ‘You keep sitting on that side of the table. Is the sun in your eyes over here?’
  • Reward flexibility and self-control: ‘I know you wanted to go to the pool today and we were surprised when it was closed. For staying cool and being so flexible about that change in plans, let’s go get some ice cream instead!’
  • Create opportunities for relaxation: You can do this by, for example, dancing, listening to music, massages, or swinging on a swing. Challenging behavior can often be diffused by an activity that releases energy or pent-up anger or anxiety. This might be punching a punch bag, bouncing on a trampoline or running around the garden.
  • Maintaining a behavior diary: which records what is occurring before, during and after the behavior, could help you to understand its purpose. It is important to make notes on the environment, including who was there, any change in the environment and how the child was feeling.
  • Give options within limits: Everyone needs to be in control of something, even if it is as simple as which activity comes first. You can still maintain some control in the choices that you offer. ‘Do you want to play first, or color first?
  • Promote Exercise and movement: Exercise can be a powerful factor in overall quality of life and can influence behavior, decreasing self-stimulatory behaviors such as rocking and spinning, as well as discouraging aggressive and self-injurious behavior. You can even include dancing and music oriented activities to make it more fun and creative for the child. Introducing Yoga is also highly beneficial as it includes not only postures but also breathing techniques that help in relaxing especially during challenging moments.
  • Take breaks: Parenting comes with its own setbacks and challenges for you as a parent so it is essential that you give yourself a break every now and then even if it is for the shortest time. Meet friends for a coffee, read a book or get a massage. See a therapist for your mental well being. It is extremely important to take care of yourself by de-stressing so that you can take care of your child.

 

Happy Parenting!

Sayee Deshpande
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