Autism and Behavior: Why is he doing that?

Autism and behavior problems lead us to question why is that behavior problem occurring?

“Why is he doing that?” is a common question when dealing with autism and behavior.  It’s a question that needs an answer.  But it’s a question that sometimes cannot be answered easily.

Becoming a detective is a critical skill when trying to discover solutions for autism and behavior problems.  Here is the situation.  (Keep reading . . . there’s a link at the end!)

I talked with a Mom recently.  She had a major problem with her five year old son.  A toileting problem.  He is just too old to still be wearing a diaper.  One body function was handled OK, but the brown messy one was the problem.  I think you get the idea without further description.

So what to do?
We talked about some of the typical strategies like timed toileting (having the child go sit on the toilet at regular intervals through the day, i.e. every hour).  We talked about wearing diapers versus not wearing diapers.  We started to go down the list of possible strategies.  We discussed in detail what he currently does related to the messy diaper.  Then the question.  “How does he react to the dirty diaper?”

BINGO! She said something
Then she said something that caught my attention.  She described how her son seemed to like to have his diaper changed.  When she was changing it he would look at her and smile and say, “I love you mommy.”  Diaper changing had become a sort of Mom-son bonding time.

What a discovery!
That social back and forth is very common when changing the diapers of infants.  It is a face-to-face-talking-looking-interacting time that elicits smiles and gurgles and great eye contact.  That is very appropriate for little ones until they get toilet trained at 2 or 2 1/2 or 3.  But this boy is older.  And the social aspect is not appropriate any more.

She left with a plan
Mom left our conversation with a plan to change the social dimension of diaper changing.  She also purposed to create more social bonding time with her son away from the diaper activities.

I suspect she has solved the problem
I think she is on her way to a good solution to a big problem.  But trying to find that solution has taken a lot of energy.  It often does.  But it is really important to pay attention to what we did.  We had to put on our detective hats to try to analyze the CAUSE of the problem.  Finding the cause is the first step in leading to a good solution.

What is the cause of the problem?
That is a question I ask when people want to discuss behavior challenges with me.  Very frequently they say they don’t know.  When you don’t know, it will be hard to find a solution.  When you don’t know, you may come up with frail short term fixes but not good long term solutions.  There is always a cause.

The cause may not be obvious
In fact, especially with autism, the cause may be hard to figure out.  That can be, in part, because of that idiosyncratic thinking that these students may demonstrate.  I love that word.  It means that these individuals may observe the world differently than you or I do.  They may pay attention to different things than we do.  Their reasoning process may not be the same and your and mine.  That doesn’t mean it’s bad.  It’s just different. Unusual.  Peculiar. Not quite like everyone else.

That’s what causes our challenge
We have a hard time because we try to solve problems by using our own reasoning skills.  Instead, our objective is to look at the world through the eyes of the child.  If we do that successfully, we will find it looks different.  But that understanding will lead us in the right direction.

Being a detective is a good thing
I am not suggesting this as a quick fix for all behavior challenges.  But it worked in this case.  Together we came up with some good possible solutions to a really major problem Mom was having.  And that’s what it’s all about.

Here’s the resource
Solving Behavior Problems in Autism, includes a Guide for Assessing Behavior Situations.  This tool is designed to help you analyze and interpret the child with autism and figure out more about behavior situations that exist.  Then it leads to developing possible solutions, frequently using visual strategies.

Horizons said, “.  . This book was desperately needed yesterday, and is an essential tool for any teacher or parent working with a child on the autism spectrum.  This is a MUST HAVE!”


  • New teacher for new student?
  • New support staff matched to students they don’t know well?
  • New classroom?

This book will  help you figure out those “sticky” situations that occur with autism and behavior problems.

Solving Behavior Problems in Autism



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