Understanding Autism Behavior

Understanding autism behavior generates some of the most common questions about autism.

It's important to understand that each individual is different, so that means the causes of behavior problems and the most effective solutions will probably be individual.

Those who understand autism well can identify some behavior patterns or common behaviors in these students that are typical in those with ASD.

Autism is more like a plate of spaghetti than it is like an ice cube tray

I’ve been following many groups on Facebook . . . for SLPs, teachers of autism and special needs and others who have a connection to autism.

They frequently have questions to help understand autism behavior. The Facebook conversation goes something like this.

Teacher: Johnny is hitting other students (or whatever the behavior problem is). What should I do?

Chat person: What is the PURPOSE of behavior?

Teacher comes up with an answer. . . . a simple surface answer.

Chat person then suggests: Find a REPLACEMENT BEHAVIOR for the problem behavior.

They make it sound very simple and straight forward . . . that’s THE ICE CUBE TRAY approach.

It suggests a simple formula to be followed. When you follow the steps, you’ll get the desired response. End of problem.

Causes and solutions

In autism, causes are not always that easy to identify and the solutions are not always so straight forward.

Just one example for confusion about autism behavior

Students may use the same behavior for multiple reasons.

Perhaps Johnny is hitting because:

• Another student is too close

• Tommy took the toy Johnny wanted

• Someone is making too much noise

• Susie touched or bumped Johnny

Or perhaps . . . think about this one. . . .

Teacher changed the schedule abruptly and didn’t give Johnny information about that.

Let’s assume Teacher TOLD Johnny about the schedule change. But she didn’t SHOW him on the daily schedule posted on the wall.

That’s the "SPAGHETTI" part.

The schedule change could be related to the hitting. It’s all connected, but it's all tangled with other things. It's not necessarily in nice uniform, obvious chunks like ice cubes.

That is why understanding autism behavior is more complex than many people realize.

Important autism discoveries

Visual strategies help minimize or eliminate many behavior situations.

When there are visual supports, students become more connected to what is going on in the classroom.

The anxiety that many students experience goes down or goes away when they have visual supports to give them information.

Students are able to tolerate sensory incidents or changes in routine better when we give them information . . . VISUALLY.

Visuals are like a “magic pill” that helps students manage the environment better and gain more success in their daily activities.

Not enough people understand the WHY

Many times, support staff or parents view your environment that uses some visual supports (If you are a teacher, I hope your classroom is full of them!) but they may not really understand the purpose of the visuals.

For the visuals to work best, comprehending WHY they work so well for a specific student is an important part of the system. That will ensure the visuals will grow to become an important element in everyone’s communication interactions.

The Visual Strategies Workshop is an important piece to understand the power of visual strategies.

I teach a lot about using visual supports for the autistic population, but it’s important to remember that visuals help many students with a variety of special learning needs.

A Parent Interview is a really important part of the Visual Strategies Workshop. We receive powerful feedback from parents who finally “get it” after listening to another parent explain what she does.

A common situation

Many times, SLPs or classroom teachers spend a lot of energy trying to explain visuals to staff members and parents.

The Visual Strategies Workshop is a perfect tool to help you help them understand. Many schools keep this program in their lending library for staff and families.

Learning about using visuals is a process. Once communication partners learn the purpose, they begin to think of more ways to support their students.

It’s that simple

But it all begins with understanding . . . really understanding what visual supports are all about.

This is your opportunity to take advantage of some great training materials for your staff.

The book Visual Strategies for Improving Communication and the Visual Strategies Workshop – DVD program are a perfect addition to your collection of resources.

Use these tools for staff training and parent enrichment so everyone is "on board" with using visual supports to help students succeed. 

That is the beginning for understanding autism behavior.

Visual Strategies Workshop

Check out these tools to help you use visuals!

These materials are perfect to help you organize your own use of visual strategies. The book and DVD program are greate resources for staff training or parent training to get this year off to a great start. 

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