Children with Autism tend to have trouble expressing their wants or needs. When it gets too much for them, they may act out in frustration and display what is known as ‘challenging behavior’. Dealing with such behavior may be tiring, embarrassing, and overwhelming for parents and caregivers, especially in public. Here, we take a closer look at what might constitute challenging behavior and how to react, when your child with Autism displays this.
Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) refers to a range of neurodevelopmental disorders that affect social, behavioral, and communicative abilities.
Why challenging behavior might occur
‘Challenging behavior’ refers to a situation where children with Autism perform acts that could cause them to hurt themselves or others around them. Examples of challenging behavior include:
- Ignoring requests or refusing to obey instructions
- Yelling or speaking aggressively
- Hurting other people around them by hitting them
- Hurting themselves by banging their head
- Engaging in inappropriate behavior like taking their clothes off in public
Most children with Autism will at some point demonstrate challenging behavior. There are several reasons why a child might do it, including:
- Trouble understanding what other people are saying to them
- A break in the child’s routine, such as stopping after school to buy groceries instead of going straight home
- Difficulty in transitioning from one activity to the next
- High levels of anxiety or stress
- Sensory overload, when taken to a new place or when there is a lot of noise or bright light around
- Sensory sensitivities, where the child is not allowed to touch or feel something that they enjoy touching and feeling
- Frustration at being asked to do something they do not have the skills for, such as independently feeding themselves
- Feelings of discomfort, such as prickliness from wool clothes or a price tag rubbing against them
- A lack of sleep, which could indicate an underlying sleep disorder
How to tackle and minimize challenging behavior in your child with Autism
It is important to sign up where relevant, and take your child for required treatment, at an early age. The more your child is able to participate in occupational and behavioral therapy, the better they will be at gaining control over their emotion and grasping how to communicate in a socially acceptable manner.
If your child is demonstrating challenging behavior, the first step is to track exactly when and where this behavior happened, and what incited it. This will give you information on what your child’s triggers are and help you work around them. Here are some tips to follow.
- Maintain a detailed record of your child’s routine and keep track of all the instances where your child acted out or behaved aggressively.
- Help your child prepare for changes in routine by giving them a warning in advance. Use pictures to illustrate what the child will do that day. For example, if your child is going to be leaving school and stopping to pick up juice before heading home, rather than going straight home.
- Make sure your child is paying attention when you explain the change to them. Communicate clearly and use words, pictures, and symbols that your child will understand.
- Encourage your child to ask for help when they are facing difficulties, such as saying the word ‘help’ or holding up a ‘help’ sign.
- If the change in routine is permanent, help your child with Autism ease into it gradually. For example, if you now plan to visit the supermarket every Tuesday after school, introduce your child to it with short trips during less busy times and allow your child to buy something they like.
- If you know that you may be going to places or doing things that make your child uncomfortable, plan in advance by carrying a favourite toy, or by ensuring that your child gets plenty of sleep beforehand.
- If your child with Autism starts protesting, stay calm and feign indifference until they calm down too.
- At the same time, praise your child for behaving well, particularly in a difficult or new situation.
- Consult a doctor if you suspect that your child’s challenging behavior could be a medical cause, such as epilepsy or ADHD.
Dealing with challenging behavior can be exhausting for you as well as your child with Autism. By understanding the root cause, you can respond to your child’s underlying needs and help them behave better.
The best treatment for Autism in Hyderabad, will go a long way in teaching your child good behavior and healthy communication practices.