ASDs Family Handout—Behavioral Challenges

Print, Share, or View Spanish version of this article

What kinds of behavioral challenges might we face with our child?

Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) may have a hard time relating to and communicating with other people. They may attempt to communicate through their behaviors. For example, children with ASDs may have a hard time telling their parents that they do not want to do an activity that is requested of them and throw a tantrum instead of using words. Many children with ASDs also are impulsive and may be over-responsive or under-responsive to sensory or environmental input. These qualities can lead to behavioral challenges, as might their repetitive behaviors or interest in sameness. They may become very upset when there is change in their routine. They may not understand why another child may not want to play exactly the way they want to. Each child's behavior is unique. Learning behavioral principles can help you increase the likelihood your child will respond how you would like him to and reduce problem behaviors.

What should we know about behavioral principles?

Basic behavioral principles can help explain how children with and without ASDs learn to respond to requests made of them. Things that happen in the environment as well as emotions cause children to exhibit behavioral responses. Most responses help a child interact with others and are adaptive. Other behavioral responses prevent a child from participating in learning activities or negatively affect social interaction.

Some reasons problem behaviors might occur include

  • Behaviors that serve as communication, like throwing a tantrum to get a cookie

  • Behavior that gets attention, such as crying until a parent gets off the telephone

  • Behavior to avoid an adult request; for example, dropping to the floor when asked to walk

  • Behaviors that are repetitive or habits, like nail biting

Some problem behaviors result from frustration (that is, not being able to make their need understood).

  • Self-stimulating behaviors such as rocking back and forth when bored or to tune out too much outside stimulation

  • Behaviors caused by a child's like tics or hyperactivity

Some of these neurobehavioral problems can be treated using medications. (Ask your child's doctor about the “Medications and Your Child” handout.) However, it is important to first understand if there is a reason for the problem behavior. Treatment is more effective if the reasons why the behavior is occurring are also addressed.

Some behaviors start out for one reason and then keep happening because they have been reinforced; they get attention or something else the child wants when the behavior occurs. For instance, a child who first bangs his head because of ear pain may continue to head bang with tantrums if he mistakenly thinks that is how to request attention.

Talk to your pediatrician, a school behavior specialist, or a psychologist if your child has challenging behaviors (ranging from interrupting to self-injury) that are problematic for you and your family. The reasons that behaviors occur can be different for each child.

What can we do to change behavior?

You can increase adaptive behaviors and decrease problem behavior by taking consistent action. That means trying to always have the same response when the behaviors occur.

1. Reward the child's adaptive behavior.

You can increase behaviors you want from your child with positive reinforcement or praise or reward when a desired behavior occurs. Teaching a child how to behave in a positive fashion is the most important part of any behavioral plan. Most children learn language by receiving a reward, such as praise, for saying a word or sentence. It might take a while for your child's behavior to change because you will need to teach her what behaviors are pleasing to you.

Rewards vary from child to child. Smiles, praise, and earning privileges are all examples of rewards. One way to use rewards is to have a star or sticker chart where a child gets a star or sticker for desired behavior. When the child earns enough stars or stickers, she can trade them in for a reward. It is not the same as bribing.

2. Have your child earn privileges for desired behaviors and withhold them for undesired behaviors.

Working for reinforcement helps teach new behaviors. One way to decrease behaviors you do not want from your child is to have your child earn privileges for favorite activities such as computer time with desired behaviors, and have him lose it when he engages in behaviors you do not want. Time-out is an example of removing a child from activities as a response to undesired behaviors. It will only work if “time-in” is positive. Teaching your child behaviors you want will help him know which behaviors you do not want him to engage in. Sometimes children act up because they find the class- or adult-directed behavior stressful—time-out may be a relief. If that seems to be the case, it is important to figure out what is stressful for the child about the adult-directed activity. For example, if a child is disruptive because he cannot learn the way he is being taught, it is important to change the teaching strategy.

Time-out for younger children needs to happen as soon as the problem behavior occurs. The amount of time a child is in time-out should depend on his understanding. A guide is 30 seconds to 1 minute per year of mental age.

If you put your child in time-out, make sure he is safe. Tell your child why he is in time-out, but do not talk to him and attend to him while he is in time-out. As soon as time-out is over, direct your child to an activity that he can be successful in and get reinforced. He needs to learn how you want him to behave.

3. Have consequences for undesired behaviors.

Sometimes consequences are necessary for challenging behaviors. What is considered punishment varies from child to child. Consequences can range from staying after class to cleaning up a mess made during a tantrum. Spanking your child and other physical punishment may teach your child to use violence with anger and is not endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

How can we better understand behavioral problems?

Think about your child's behavior using the ABC method.

A = Antecedent, or what happened before your child's behavior

B = Behavior, or what your child did

C = Consequence, or what happened after your child's behavior

This can help you to think about why the behavior happened so you can prevent it in the future. The goal is to avoid situations that can lead to problem behavior and to reinforce desired behaviors so they happen more frequently. A simple chart can help you keep track of your child's behavior so you can figure out why it is happening. It might look like the following:

</caption> <table> <colgroup> <col /> <col /> <col /> <col /> </colgroup> <thead> <tr> <th>Date and Time of Behavior</th> <th>Antecedent</th> <th>Behavior</th> <th>Consequence</th> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td>Monday 8:00–8:15</td> <td>Told to turn off TV</td> <td>“No” and tantrum</td> <td>I turned off TV and took him to school bus after he stopped.</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </table-wrap> <p id="peo_document577_en.p0402">Schools can also help you understand behaviors. You can ask your child's school about a <italic>functional behavioral analysis</italic> and behavioral intervention plan if your child is having behavioral problems in school. This analysis looks at your child's specific behaviors and when they occur. It should help you to find out what might influence problem behaviors and identify ways to change them. Many families benefit from input from a behavioral health professional to better understand their child's behavior and develop a plan to help. You can ask your child's doctor or school psychologist for a referral to a psychologist, social worker, Board Certified Behavioral Analyst, or another behavioral health professional to help you and your family learn how to teach your child more adaptive behaviors.</p> <p id="peo_document577_en.p0403">Managing behaviors is challenging and requires consistency but also flexibility over time. Your child's behaviors and your expectations will change as your child matures. The plan you use may change over time, but the basic principles remain the same.</p> </div> <div id="peo_document577_en.s079" class="disp-level1"> <h3>Resources</h3> <p id="peo_document577_en.p0404">American Academy of Pediatrics <ext-link ext-link-type="uri" src="" xmlns:xlink=""></ext-link></p> <p id="peo_document577_en.p0405">Center for Effective Collaboration and Practice Functional Behavioral Assessment: <ext-link ext-link-type="uri" src="" xmlns:xlink=""></ext-link></p> <p id="peo_document577_en.p0406">Harris SL, Weiss MJ. <italic>Right from the Start: Behavioral Intervention for Young Children with Autism.</italic> 2nd ed. Bethesda, MD: Woodbine House; 2007</p> <p id="peo_document577_en.p0407">Myles BS, Southwick J. <italic>Asperger Syndrome and Difficult Moments: Practical Solutions for Tantrums, Rage, and Meltdowns.</italic> 2nd rev ed. Shawnee Mission, KS: Autism Asperger Publishing; 2005</p> <p id="peo_document577_en.p0408">Phelan TW. <italic>1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12.</italic> 4th ed. Glen Ellyn, IL: ParentMagic, Inc; 2010 US Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health. <italic>Autism: Causes, Symptoms, Signs, Diagnosis and Treatments—Everything You Need to Know About Autism.</italic> Smith S, ed. Rev ed. Rockville, MD: National Institute of Mental Health; 2011</p> </div> </div> <script> var f = document.getElementById("framecontent"); = "100%";//f.contentWindow.document.body.scrollHeight + "px"; = "100%";//f.contentWindow.document.body.scrollHeight + "px"; = "1000px";//f.contentWindow.document.body.scrollHeight + "px"; = f.contentWindow.document.body.scrollHeight + "px"; // = "846px";//f.contentWindow.document.body.scrollHeight + "px"; </script> <div class="pwcopyright">Copyright © 2013</div> <style> .applogos{margin-top:1em;display:block;width:100%;} .aaplogo{max-width:20em;width:100%;float:left;} .aaplogo2{max-width:20em;width:100%;float:left;} div.disclaimer{padding-bottom:1em;padding-top:1em; } div.disclaimer p{font-size:0.9em;font-style:italic;} .btnopen{padding:0.2em;font-size:0.8em;} .btnopen:hover{background-color:#cccccc;} .disp-level1 {/* border-top:solid 1px #666666;*/} .disp-level2 {} .disp-level1 h3{} .disp-level2 h3{} .boxed-text {} .boxed-text h3 {} .boxed-text, .btnopen:hover { /* IE 8 */ -ms-filter: "progid:DXImageTransform.Microsoft.Alpha(Opacity=50)"; /* IE 5-7 */ filter: alpha(opacity=50); /* Netscape */ -moz-opacity: 0.5; /* Safari 1.x */ -khtml-opacity: 0.5; /* Good browsers */ opacity: 0.5; } </style> <div id="pwrelatedimages"> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="span3"> <div style="width: 90%; padding: 10px; background: #e2e2e2; border: solid 1px #ccc; margin: 9px 18px 0 24px;"> <h3>In this section</h3> <ul id="menuElem"> <li style=""><a href="/Medical-Content/Medicine-Dosages" style="" >Medicine Dosages</a></li> <li style=""><a href="/Medical-Content/Whats-Going-Around" style="" >What's Going Around?</a></li> <li><a href="/Medical-Content/Parenting-Tips" >Parenting Tips</a></li> <li><a href="/Medical-Content/Special-Needs" >Special Needs</a></li> <li><a href="/Medical-Content/Immunization-Schedule" >Immunization Schedule</a></li> <li><a href="/Medical-Content/Favorite-Links" >Favorite Links</a></li> <li><a href="/Medical-Content/Breastfeeding" >Breastfeeding</a></li> <li class="HighLighted"><a href="/Medical-Content/Behavior" >Behavior</a></li> <li><a href="/Medical-Content/Emergencies" >Emergencies</a></li> <li><a href="/Medical-Content/Medical-Conditions" >Medical Conditions</a></li> <li><a href="/Medical-Content/Newborns" >Newborns</a></li> <li><a href="/Medical-Content/Teens" >Teens</a></li> <li><a href="/Medical-Content/Growth-and-Development" >Growth and Development</a></li> <li><a href="/Medical-Content/Nutrition" >Nutrition</a></li> <li><a href="/Medical-Content/Safety" >Safety</a></li> <li><a href="/Medical-Content/Sports-and-Exercise" >Sports and Exercise</a></li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <!--container end--> <!--Start: Footer --> <footer> <div class="container"> <div class="row"> <div class="span9"> <div itemscope itemtype=""> <span itemprop="name">Anywhere Women's Healthcare</span> <span itemprop="address">| 123 Your address here. | Anywhere, CO ZipCode</span> <span itemprop="telephone">| Phone: 800-888-8888</span> <span itemprop="faxNumber"></span> </div> <style type="text/css"> /* untuk pemakaian di blog/website anda, yang di copy hanya css di bawah ini*/ /* style untuk link popup */ a.popup-link { /* padding:17px 0; text-align: center; margin:7% auto; position: relative; width: 300px; color: #fff; text-decoration: none; background-color: #FFBA00; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 5px 0px 0px #eea900; display: block;*/ } a.popup-link:hover { /*background-color: #ff9900; box-shadow: 0 3px 0px 0px #eea900; -webkit-transition:all 1s; -moz-transition:all 1s; transition:all 1s;*/ } /* end link popup*/ /*style untuk popup */ #popupDisclaimer, #popupPrivacy { visibility: hidden; opacity: 0; text-align: left; margin-top: -1500px; } #popupDisclaimer:target, #popupPrivacy:target { visibility: visible; opacity: 1; background-color: rgba(255,255,255,0.8); position: fixed; top: 0; left: 0; right: 0; bottom: 0; margin: 0; z-index: 99999999999; -webkit-transition: all 1s; -moz-transition: all 1s; transition: all 1s; overflow: auto; text-align: left; } @media (min-width: 768px) { .popup-container { width: 600px; } } @media (max-width: 767px) { .popup-container { width: 100%; } } .popup-container { position: relative; margin: 7% auto; padding: 30px 50px; background-color: #333; background-color: #efefef; color: #fff; color: #000000; border: solid 1px #333333; border-radius: 3px; text-align: left; } a.popup-close { position: absolute; top: 3px; right: 3px; background-color: #fff; padding: 7px 10px; font-size: 20px; text-decoration: none; line-height: 1; color: #333; } </style> <div style="position: absolute; height: 1px; top: 0; left: 0;"> <div id="closed"> </div> <div class="popup-wrapper" id="popupDisclaimer"> <div class="popup-container"> <h1>DISCLAIMER:</h1> <p>The information contained in these topics is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, it is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.<br /> <br /> Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before starting any new treatment or discontinuing an existing treatment. Talk with your healthcare provider about any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Nothing contained in these topics is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment.</p> <ul> <li><span class="smaller"><strong>Not a Substitute - </strong>The information and materials on this website and RemedyConnect's content (Including but not exclusive of: Illness/Symptoms, Is Your Child Sick? Medicine Dosages, Medical Conditions) should not be used as a substitute for the care and knowledge that your physician can provide to you.</span></li> <li><span class="smaller"><strong>Supplement - </strong>The information and materials presented here in HouseCalls Online are meant to supplement the information that you obtain from your physician. If there is a disagreement between the information presented herein and what your physician has told you -- it is more likely that your physician is correct. He or she has the benefit of knowing your medical problems.</span></li> <li><span class="smaller"><strong>Limitations - </strong>You should recognize that the information and materials presented here in HouseCalls Online have the following limitations, in comparison to being examined by your own physician:</span> <ul> <li><span class="smaller">You can have a conversation with your doctor.</span></li> <li><span class="smaller">Your doctor can perform a physical examination and any necessary tests.</span></li> <li><span class="smaller">You could have an underlying medical problem that requires a physician to detect.</span></li> <li><span class="smaller">If you're taking medications, they could influence how you experience various symptoms. </span></li> </ul> </li> </ul> <h2 style="text-align: center;">If you think that you are having a medical emergency,<br /> call 911 or the number for the local emergency ambulance service NOW!</h2> <h3 style="text-align: center;">And when in doubt, call your doctor NOW<br /> or go to the closest emergency department.</h3> <p>By using this website, you accept the information provided herein "AS IS." Neither RemedyConnect nor the providers of the information contained herein will have any liability to you arising out of your use of the information contained herein or make any express or implied warranty regarding the accuracy, content, completeness, reliability, or efficacy of the information contained within this website.</p> <a class="popup-close" href="#closed">X</a> </div> </div> <div class="popup-wrapper" id="popupPrivacy"> <div class="popup-container"> <h1>Privacy Statement</h1> <p>RemedyConnect, Inc. has created this privacy statement in order to demonstrate our firm commitment to your privacy. The following discloses our information gathering and dissemination practices for this website: <a href=""></a>.</p> <h2>Acquisition of Information through PMD</h2> <p>We do not acquire any more information about website visitors than is required by law or is otherwise necessary to provide a high level of service efficiently and securely. Our site's registration form requires users to give us contact information (e.g., their name and e-mail address) and demographic information (e.g., children's birth months, but not birth dates). We use customer contact information from the registration form to (1) send the user pertinent medical and parenting information and (2) allow your local health provider lists of who is registering on that provider's site as a parent/guardian, staff member, doctor, or visitor. Users may opt-out of receiving future mailings; see the choice/opt-out section below.<br /> <br /> We use your IP address to help diagnose problems with our server and to administer our Website. Your IP address is used to help identify you and to gather broad demographic information.<br /> <br /> Demographic and profile data is also collected at our site. We may use this data to tailor the visitor's experience at our site, showing them content that we think they might be interested in, and displaying the content according to their preferences.<br /> <br /> Our site may use order forms to allow users to request information, products, and services.</p> <h2>Your Doctor's Right to Privacy</h2> <p>We will respect your doctor's right to privacy. A doctor typically does not give his/her e-mail address to the parents/guardians of patients. We will not provide the e-mail addresses of doctor(s) in the local practice to users of their site without the doctor(s)' permission. Their site is restricted to use by whomever they wish, and they may deny access to their site to one or more prior users. In unusual cases, doctors may change their private site's access code and arrange for us to e-mail the new access code to approved users.</p> <h3>Cookies</h3> <p>We use cookies to deliver content specific to your interests and to save your doctor's access code so you don't have to re-enter it each time you visit your doctor's site on <a href=""></a>.</p> <h3>Links</h3> <p>This site contains links to other sites. is not responsible for the privacy practices or the content of such Websites. See <a href="" target="_top">Disclaimers</a>.</p> <h3>Disclosure to Third Parties</h3> <p>We will provide individually-identifiable information about website users to third parties only if we are compelled to do so by order of a duly-empowered governmental authority, we have the express permission of the visitor, or it is necessary to process transactions and provide you services from our affiliates: <a href="" target="_blank">Live Agent Answering Service</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">Digital Answering Service</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">Medical Answering Service</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">Pediatric Answering Service</a>. </p> <h3>Privacy and Our Business Partners</h3> <p>When we make our technology or services available to business partners, we will not share with them any more consumer information than is necessary, and we will make every reasonable effort to assure, by contract or otherwise, that they use our technology and services in a manner that is consistent with this Privacy Policy.</p> <h3>Public Forums</h3> <p>This site may make chat rooms, forums, message boards, and/or news groups available to its users. Please remember that any information that is disclosed in these areas becomes public information and you should exercise caution when deciding to disclose your personal information.</p> <h3>Security</h3> <p>This site has security measures in place to protect the loss, misuse and alteration of the information under our control. For further information regarding our security, please contact us at <a href=""></a>. If you have any concerns regarding the security of information, please do not provide any information to RemedyConnect, Inc. until you are comfortable with our security measures.</p> <h3>Correct/Update</h3> <p>You may correct or update your User Registration information at any time, by visiting the User Registration section and providing your personal password that you set at registration. If need be, please email us at <a href=""></a>.</p> <h3>Choice/Opt-Out</h3> <p>Our site provides users the opportunity to opt-out of receiving e-mail communications from our partners or us, except communications approved by your doctor's practice office. To so opt-out, please email us at <a href=""></a>. To be removed as a user, please email us at the same address. If need be, you may mail requests to us at <a href="" target="_blank">RemedyConnect, Inc.</a></p> <h3>Contacting the Website</h3> <p>If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, or your dealings with this Website, you can contact us by email at <a href=""></a> or by mail at our address above.</p> Privacy <a class="popup-close" href="#closed">X</a> </div> </div> </div> <!--Remedy Web Footer---> <div class="footercopyright"> <span class="footercopy"> Copyright © 2019 Anywhere Women's Health. All rights reserved. </span> </div> <div class="footerprivacy"> <span class="footerprivacy"> <a href="/forms/privacy-policy.aspx" target="_blank">Privacy Policy</a> </span> <span class="footerdivider">|| </span> <span class="footermedical"> <a href="" target="_blank">Medical Web Design by Remedy<i>Connect</i></a>. <a href="" target="_blank" title="Kentico" rel="nofollow">Powered by Kentico CMS</a>. </span> <span class="footerdisclaimer"> See our <a href="#popupDisclaimer" class="popup-link">Disclaimer</a> and <a href="#popupPrivacy" class="popup-link">Privacy Policy</a>. </span> <span class="footerlogin"> <a href="/cmsdesk/" target="_blank">Website Admin</a> </span> </div> <!--End Remedy Web Footer---> </div> <div class="span3"> <p> <em><strong>Anywhere Women's Healthcare </strong></em>provides the best service, all day, every day.</p> </div> </div> </div> </footer><!--end footer --> <script type="text/javascript"> //<![CDATA[ var gaJsHost = (("https:" == document.location.protocol) ? "https://ssl." : "http://www."); document.write(unescape("%3Cscript src='" + gaJsHost + "' type='text/javascript'%3E%3C/script%3E")); //]]> </script> <script type="text/javascript"> //<![CDATA[ if ( (parent == null) || (!parent.IsCMSDesk) ) { try { var pageTracker = _gat._getTracker('UA-3177093-11'); pageTracker._trackPageview(); } catch(err) {} } //]]> </script> <script type="text/javascript"> //<![CDATA[ (function() {var fn = function() {$get("manScript_HiddenField").value = '';Sys.Application.remove_init(fn);};Sys.Application.add_init(fn);})();//]]> </script> </form> </body> </html>