POSITIVE BEHAVIOUR SUPPORT
Positive behaviour supports principles that regard a right of a child to be treated with dignity. It focuses on a child’s overall success, not just the challenging behaviours. When dealing with a challenging behaviour, positive behaviour support implies that there is a reason behind most inappropriate behaviours or face difficulties in acquiring certain necessary skills. Hence, a child must be treated with respect and support be given to make the necessary behavioural changes in the child’s life in order for the child to learn better or more appropriate behaviours; not coercion or punishment.
The principle is that positive consequences to a behaviour (reinforcement, rewards, favourite toy, praises) increases the likelihood of the behaviour repeating. The alternative is usually punishment (taking something away, yelling, spanking) decreases the likelihood of a behaviour taking place. While punishment might work immediately, research has shown that it is ineffective long term and could lead to potential adverse effects and a platform more additional undesirable behaviours such as aggression, hostility, and strained relationships (Autism Speaks, 2014). It is worth noting that neutral consequences to a behaviour also decrease the likelihood of a repetitive behaviour.
With these principles, it is important to establish that the likelihood of an inappropriate behaviour will increase if it is followed by a positive reaction (attention, bribes, favourite toys as distraction). Likewise, the likelihood of an inappropriate behaviour will decrease if it is followed by a neutral reaction (extinction – paying no attention to the inappropriate behaviour).
SO, HOW DO I MANAGE MY CHILD’S CHALLENGING BEHAVIOUR?
STEP 1: PREVENT – SET YOUR CHILD UP FOR SUCCESS!
Modify the environment to be successful – Do not set your child up for failures. You probably know your child well enough more than anyone else to forsee when certain situations trigger challenging or inappropriate behaviour. Modify the situation so that your child will not have to face a meltdown.
Communication – Communication plays a vital role in managing behaviours. Before you can effectively implement positive behaviour support strategies, think about this: “Does your child have a way to communication with you effectively?” “Do you communicate with your child effectively?”
Predictability – Prepare your child for what is going to happen so that your child does not react negatively to unforeseen situations.
Utilise visuals – Visuals are an effective way of preparing your child and showing him/her what to expect in the upcoming changes.
Have a systematic approach of teaching your child the appropriate behaviour.
STEP 2: REACTIVE MEASURES – DURING THE BEHAVIOUR:
Extinction – Extinction basically means paying no attention to the behaviour. As we have addressed above, neutral consequences or reaction to a behaviour usually results in a decrease likelihood of the behaviour taking place.
Redirect – Redirect your attention and hopefully your child’s attention towards another activity. Also, visual schedules and/or social stories can sometimes be an effective way to redirect their attention and help them understand the current situation. (for more information on visual schedules and social stories, visit our blog (autismmalaysia.com)).
Follow through – Always follow through on any instructions given or reactive measures implemented. Stopping midway reduces compliance and also renders your reactive measures less effective.
Keep calm and neutral – We understand that it is difficult to stay calm and react neutrally to challenging behaviour but keeping calm helps you stay less emotionally-affected and level headed in dealing with the behaviour appropriately.
REMEMBER, whatever behaviour you give attention to will increase – both appropriate and inappropriate
Autism Speaks (2014). Challenging behaviour tool kit. Retrieved from: http://www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/tool-kits/challenging-behaviors-tool-kit
Early Autism Project Malaysia, EAP Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.