Handling Difficult Behavior at School

A few techniques to set up a Bahavior Protocol for an Autistic child in School

  1. ashishb01
    Spectrum Type:
    Autism General
    Focus Area:
    • Children
    So what are the examples of "Difficult" behavior in school.

    How do you devise effective school behavior remediation strategies for a child on spectrum?

    Let us take a real life example of Molly. A 9 year old child on spectrum who executes abrupt behavior while in school.

    What do we do when?…

    • The teacher observes Molly and another student tickling back and forth?
    • Molly is tickle/chasing another student and they don't like it?
    • Molly runs up and hangs on/pulls the custodian?
    • She blows kisses another, favorite male teacher?
    • She runs up and snuggles with her assistant teacher, Janet Rose. (Janet Rose is very sweet and loving, but seems to have a hard time setting boundaries.)
    These sort of actions are termed "Target Behavior" which is basically a child's reaction for the want of something.

    Here are a few strategies and programs to be used with Molly preventatively, as well as proactively.

    How to handle Molly wanting attention by touching another person

    Any time that Molly initiates attention by touching another person, if she begins talking while others are talking, or some other inappropriate method of gaining attention (e.g., tickling someone), team members should:

    1. Hold up your hand with your palm facing her to signal for her to wait
    • Do not respond to Molly unless she says “excuse me”, stating your name, or any other appropriate interruption
    2. If you are talking to someone else, once whomever is talking is finished, prompt Molly to use an appropriate carrier phrase to interrupt the conversation if needed. Only then respond to her request
    • Be sure to use differential reinforcement; that is, give her more attention when she independently interjects during an ongoing exchange, and less if you had to prompt her to
    3. If the conversation or activity cannot be paused and Molly requests appropriately, praise her for appropriately interrupting - tell Molly that you will talk to her when you are finished. Maybe encourage her to do something else while she waits
    • Once you are finished with the activity, find Molly and tell her you are available now

    Preventative, Replacement, and Management Strategies

    1. Preventative Strategies to Use:
    • Provide Molly with attention for at least 1 minute every 10-15 minutes when she is behaving appropriately
    • Design a daily routine for use in all environments to set expectations for when attention will be provided
    • Use visual aide to alert Molly when attention is/is not available (green or red light near the caregiver)
    2. Replacement Skills to Teach:
    • Teach Molly to request attention using a complete sentence such as,
    • Coping Method: Teach Molly to tolerate lack of attention attention by finding alternate activities to occupy her time while waiting.
    3. Management Strategies to Use:

    What to do when she demonstrates the correct behaviors: Anytime Molly requests attention appropriately, be sure to interact with her, if possible, for at least 1 minute.

    If attention is not available, provide Molly with one reminder that your attention is not available right now and she does not engage in a target behavior, be sure to praise her for her appropriate behavior when attention is available again. Use the multiple schedule, a timer, or some other visual to tell Molly when your attention is and is not available

    What to do when she engages in target behaviors: If Molly engages in verbal aggression or tantrums for attention, use planned ignoring. Do not say anything about this behavior and instead look away and move away if necessary; do not engage in an argument.

    If she engages in physical aggression, use response blocking (an open hand block) to prevent her successfully hitting you or others. Be sure to redirect her away from her brother if needed. Be sure to not provide attention during this time.

    Using Relationship Boundaries:

    : In our Resources Section, we have detailed visual picture and schedules to help children understand relationships.

    Use this frame to discuss boundaries with Molly and the people around her. Emphasize on the on the Relationship Level (Who) and the Action.
    • Who can I say ‘hi’ to?
    • Who can I talk to about myself?
    • Who can I talk to if I need help?
    • Who can I talk to if I feel sad?
    • Who can I play with?
    • Who can I ask to give me a hug?
    • Who can I ask to tickle?

Recent Reviews

  1. aspiemum
    I tried implementing these strategies with my daughter. Initially, she started demonstrating the target behavior. But as mentioned in this resource, I tried to ignore her and pretend as if I have other priority matters to attend. After about 15 minutes of tantrums, she was able to pacify herself and came over to me and said, "mum, please listen to me" :-)

    It worked indeed!
  2. asdattack
    Thank you. This was very helpful!