Behavior Intervention Plans for Autistic CHildren: Getting Started

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Children with autism do not pick up skills and behaviors socially like most other children do. They do not observe their environment and imitate. Due to this, we need to use special strategies to reach and teach these children. Here are the various steps that are involved in making a behavior intervention plan.

Recording the Behavior:

This is the first step of behavior intervention. Behaviors can be broadly classified into problem behaviors and skill behaviors. Problem behaviors include hair pulling, throwing things or biting self. Skill behaviors are skills or tasks like brushing, maintaining eye contact and identifying red color.

Problem behaviors need to be recorded in terms of what they are, when they occurred, how long they lasted ( duration), and how often they occur ( frequency). For skill behaviors a complete assessment of the child’s language, cognitive, social and like skills needs to be done.

ABC Assessment of Behavior:

One you have recorded the problem behaviors, you need to do an ABC analysis of the behaviors. A stands for antecedent, or what happened before the behavior. This includes who was there when the behavior started, what was said, where it happened, and if there were any environmental factors which could have triggered the behavior. B stands for behavior where you describe the behavior in detail. C stands for consequence. Note all the consequences of the behavior for the child. What happened after the behavior- how did the people around him respond? Did it help him get something? Did it fulfill a sensory need for the child? Using this information try to analyze the cause for the behavior problem- Is it a lack of skill? Attention seeking,? Sensory seeking?

Choosing the Target Behavior:

After analyzing the behavior and doing an assessment you are ready to choose the behavior you would like to focus on. Choose one or two skill behaviors and one problem behavior at a time. The goal of our Intervention will be to increase the frequency of the skill behaviors and decrease the frequency of the problem behaviors.

Choosing the Right Intervention Strategy for Autism:

Children with autism benefit from some specific strategies for behavior intervention. Some strategies used are Discrete trial training ( DTT), Reciprocal imitation training, and pivotal response therapy. However these specialized trainings usually require a trained therapist or professionals. For teachers and parents, here are some ideas that you can keep in mind while making behavioral intervention plans for autistic children.

Choose a reinforcer : using reinforcements is one of the best ways to teach children . Very young children with autism benefit from using edible reinforcers like a small piece of a biscuit every time they perform the desired behavior or an alternate behavior to the problem behavior. Older children with autism enjoy sensory reinforcers like a few minutes on a rocking chair, music, or a favorite object. The reinforcer needs to be something that the child really desires and does not get at other times.

Making a schedule: Children with autism learn best when they have a schedule and a structured environment. Schedule a part of the day as a time to work on new skills. Sit in the same place everyday to teach the new skills. Use the same reinforcer. All this will help the child focus and learn.

Providing an acceptable alternative for sensory seeking problem behaviors: Children with autism have a variety of sensory seeking problem behaviors. Some of them include biting, throwing things, or banging self against the wall. They engage in these behaviors to fulfill their sensory needs. Thus intervention for these behaviors needs to include activities that will fulfill these needs in an acceptable and safe way.

Starting with simple activities and slowly grading them: This involves starting the skill training with a very small component of the entire task and slowly making it more complex. Introducing a challenging task in the beginning might get the child frustrated and he may not cooperate with you to learn new skills.

Consistent intervention: Once you have made these behavior intervention plans for autistic children, you need to follow them consistently. Every time a child performs the skilled behavior he needs to be rewarded , and every time he performs a problem behavior you need to respond.

Analyzing the Result:

Continue to record the behavior of the child, and the changes. Change the intervention plan if required according to the improvements of the child. Step by step, the child will learn new skills and decrease problem behaviors. Behavior intervention takes time, and is an ongoing process, but when done the right way, will show good results.


Behavorial Neurotherapy Clinic:

Center for Autism and realted disorders: