Dealing with “Red Flag” Autism Behaviors

I call them “red flag autism behaviors.”

They can actually occur for any child, but we seem to notice them more when dealing with autism.

Here’s an example

Three year old grandchild playing with baby sister. I was fixing lunch and watching them in the family room just a few feet away.

Celesta walked to the baby and leaned over really close to the infant’s face. She raised her hands to look like claws and growled really loud.

Of course, the baby cried.

Now where did that behavior come from?

So I responded. . . .
Of course, I responded with a typical adult retort. “Don’t do that. It scares the baby!”

Why was she being so “aggressive” with her little sister?

A bit later I made a discovery. . . .
For quiet time in the afternoon we turned on a children’s video.

Guess what I saw?

The singer was singing a song about a dinosaur.

The children in the program raised their hands to look like claws and growled at each other.

There was quite a bit of playful laughter.


Guess what happened next?

My granddaughter joined in that playful behavior. And I began to understand.

So. . . what was she trying to do when she made the baby cry? Play? I think so.

She was using a behavior she imitated from that video.

Only one problem. . . .it got her in trouble.

Then I began to think.…
Here is the real question. . . .

“What does she need to learn?”

Celesta wasn’t intending to be aggressive or hurtful with the baby.

I think she was trying to play.

She just didn’t use the right technique. . . . or at least the right technique for the baby.

Can you guess what we did next?
Once I pieced together the real story, I knew just what to do.

I turned into a teacher.

We spent quite a bit of time that afternoon finding GOOD ways to play with the baby. What a joy that was.

Think about our students with learning challenges
Do they have behavior issues like this? I think so.

I suspect they do a lot of things that make sense to them. . .just not to us.

Yet how do we respond?   Scold?   Punish?   Teach?

Wave the red flag!
Do you know what RED FLAG behaviors are? They occur frequently.

The red flag is a symbol that means “pay attention.”

Red flag behaviors are those behaviors that signal to us that there is something the student needs to learn.

They are not “being bad.” They are different from willful defiance or anger or disobedience.

When red flag behaviors occur, they demonstrate that the student needs to learn a more appropriate way.

What to say. . . or what to do. . . or how to do it. Like how to play appropriately with the baby.

What an important babysitting session.

I asked a question
When I was doing a workshop recently, I asked the participants to fill in the blank (from the point of view of our special students). Here is the sentence.

“If only people understood _______”

Someone filled it in like this.

“If only people understood the reasons I do the things I do.”

Yes. If only we understood we could be better teachers for that student.

Do you have any examples?



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