Blog #184~Addressing Problem Behaviors in Individuals with DS/ASD
Problem behaviors in individuals with Down syndrome and autism (DS/ASD), are very common. Speech deficits, make it difficult to communicate wants and needs. Often individuals with DS/ASD, may exhibit problem behaviors to communicate something. Last week I participated in a webinar about addressing such behaviors, led by Sam Towers (http://firstname.lastname@example.org), that was hosted by The Down Syndrome Association of Minnesota. Here is a summary of this webinar on addressing problem behaviors in individuals with DS/ASD.
First of all, it is important to build rapport. Establish a friendship with kindness, and positive activities that the individual enjoys. This will provide the basis for teaching the person, that there are other ways, besides problem behavior, for achieving goals. Sam suggested a 10:1 ratio of praising good behaviors. Praise encourages the individual to do it again.
Why do people use problem behaviors?
3.Escape or avoid something unpleasant
4.Get a pleasant sensation
All behaviors allow a person to achieve a goal, because the payoff is reinforcement. You get what you pay more attention to. The idea is to avoid letting problem behaviors have a payoff. So, focus ALOT more on addressing the good behaviors. This can be done by building skills, through teaching replacement behaviors. If a child is throwing things to get attention, the replacement behavior could be to teach them to tap you on the shoulder or use their communication device.
My son Nick is 23 years old and has a dual diagnosis of DS/ASD. He has many behaviors that are used to get attention or something, and provide a pleasant sensation. Part of the autism piece is sensory related. Flushing the toilet repeatedly, pushing the microwave fan or phone intercom buttons are ways that he stims, which is a form of self-entertainment. One suggestion, for this would be to teach other ways for him to entertain himself. Some supports that I recommend, are to use social stories, redirect to an AAC (Aumentative Alternative Communication) device, PECS (Picture Exchange Communication) book, or create a choice board.
If an individual is trying to get out of an activity, they may exhibit behaviors like self-injury, yelling, or stop-drop and plop. In these cases, it’s important to provide supports like, a first-then charts, “take a break” card, noise cancelling headphones, a visual schedule, or a timed timer.
Bottom line, you can’t let the problem behavior become the payoff. The single most effective way to get rid of a problem behavior, is to arrange things so that there is no payoff (reinforcement) for the behavior. Completely withholding reinforcement can be difficult, and often leads to an increase in the behavior. This is called an extinction boost. But if you stick to your guns, this will result in the behavior decreasing. The key is to be consistent in not rewarding the undesirable behavior. If it is reinforced intermittently, it will cause the behavior to be more long-lasting, because there is still some payoff for the individual.
Understanding the reasons people use problem behaviors, building skills and supports to teach replacement behaviors, praising 10:1 good behaviors, and arranging things so that there is no payoff for the problem behavior are all great tools for addressing problem behaviors in individuals with DS/ASD. Here are a few resources which may also help:
When Down Syndrome and Autism Intersect,
edited by Margaret Froehlke and Robin Zaborek:
A special thank you to the Down Syndrome Association of Minnesota and Sam Towers of Towers Behavior Services for an informative webinar. Now, it’s time to make a new choice board for Nick. Have a great week, everyone.
That’s what is in my noggin this week! 🙂
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