Posted in Autism, Behavior/ ABA

Blog #23~ ABA: Down Syndrome and Autism

Blog #23~ ABA: Down syndrome and Autism

Last week I spent some time reading over the blogs I have posted thus far while tagging key words on each of them. I  thought it was time to give you an update on how Nick’s behaviors are going since Blog # 3~ Getting Your Goat,  and Blog #10~ Nano Second, .  In both of these, I run through a multitude of stories of how Nick has been dumping out anything he can get his hand on, pushing buttons, alarms and generally driving us bonkers.  If you have been reading these blogs you know we implemented some changes. If you haven’t then scroll back as they are golden!  Did they work? Verdict is……

Drum roll please…………………

Those negative behaviors diminished significantly. When it comes to dumping out a Costco sized (64 oz. oh my…) of Olive Oil amongst other things, that’s a BIG DEAL!

What works for Nick is Applied Behavioral Analysis, also known as ABA. Quick definition…..According to Wikipedia, “Applied Behavioral Analysis is a psychological approach that uses the theory of behaviorism to modify human behaviors as part of a learning or treatment process. By functionally assessing the relationship between a targeted behavior and the environment, the methods of ABA can be used to change that behavior.”  ABA techniques and principles can bring about meaningful and positive change in behavior.  ABA is used for behavior and skill building in the school and home setting.

I want to spend some time giving concrete information on this as I was lost when this was first brought to me.   Rewind to Pleasanton, California when Nick’s teacher threw out her ideas of behavioral management at a meeting when he was five years old.  It made no sense at the time.  I hope to put a clear lens on it now. This is what I have learned….

 5 Tips for Changing a Behavior:

1. Choose one behavior to increase or decrease and focus on that.

2. Find meaningful reinforces (verbal praise, small edible treat, and preferred toy)

3. Use behavior management techniques consistently in all environments.

4. Encourage positive behaviors and discourage negative behaviors.

5. Use your ABC’s:

A= Antecedent… What usually happens before the behavior that might set it off?

B= Behavior… What actually happens during the behavior?

C= Consequence…What reactions follow from the child and those around after?

So, how did we get the dumping to diminish?  First step was to look at the antecedent. By keeping a log of his behaviors every time he dumped, I began to see a pattern.  Nick usually dumped things out when he was bored or we were trying busy trying to get out the door. This summer there was a lot of down time and Nick took advantage. So, I got him out of the house more on community outings like the park and going out to eat. This helped to occupy his time plus he came home more chilled out.

He is just a swining…. swingin….Oh yes!

At home Nick needed some redirection when we were busy getting ready for work or a tennis match.  I found a hook, a preferred activity.  He loves watching funny cat videos on You Tube.  A highly preferred activity (something he craves) used sparingly captivated him.  In addition, it helped to simply avoid the antecedent.  By putting the child proof locks back on the cabinets this shut a lot of that temptation down. That works unless you leave the cabinet open.  Insert picture of me in the closet shielding in my eyes as Nick comes at me with his finger on a can of hairspray. 

My final suggestion is to use the distraction method. Let’s say Nick goes for a cup of coffee.  I know he is going to dump it.  Immediately I do something funny like bonk my elbow on a chair and he laughs as I scoop up the mug.  Or maybe just say, “Mom’s coffee, give me, thank you.”  The distraction technique works especially well if a behavior is escalating to a possible meltdown, a quick slapstick move or joke can help change the focus quickly.

Secondly, let’s look at the actual behavior.  Nick has that can of hairspray in his hand ready to fire off a round into my eye. I use a hand over hand technique and redirect him to spray my hair.  Or I take his hand and escort him back to the bathroom to put it in the cabinet.  The point is to stay calm and not draw more attention to the behavior because that is EXACTLY what he is yearning for.

Regarding consequences the method is swift and simple.  Dumping equals clean up.  I point to the stack of gym towels and Nick gets one and cleans up the mess.  No words are spoken, no praise is given. No matter what it should be a natural consequence and never a punishment. There is a time for praise and it is given freely and enthusiastically when Nick completes a chore or task that is a preferred activity. There are many more behaviors than just dumping and how to handle them, stay tuned…..I will post more!

The days are running smoother but not without bumps in the road.  Last Friday, my friend KB was over and in a matter of two minutes he grabbed her car keys and tried to push the alarm on the remote. Then he snagged her iPhone and made a beeline laughing as he headed over to try and drop it  into the toilet.  (He was being ignored and wanted us to know it.)  Nick followed up this weekend with giving the cat a special dandruff shampoo treatment.  He found the Head and Shoulders Shampoo hidden behind the towels.

 Plop, plop…..No dandruff for Miss Mellie anytime soon……Poor kitty 😦

“Oh wait ha ha, I think I will plop foamy soap on my head now, this is fun!”…..Says Nick!

By the way the cat is fine…… and flake free

I knew something was up on both occasions with KB and Miss Mellie.  Two words, devilish laugh.  That can only mean one thing; he has been up to no good.  Bottom line we have made strides…..  His behavior plan is always a work in progress, like *painting the Golden Gate Bridge it is never ending.


In the meantime I will  try to stay one step ahead of him.  That’s what is in my noggin this week.  I’d love to hear what you want to know about Nick and how we navigate his world living with Down syndrome and autism.  Until next Monday, take care and enjoy the changes coming as fall greets us.


*Regarding the Painting of the Golden Gate Bridge……There are a couple of misconceptions about how often the Bridge is painted. Some say once every seven years, others say from end to end each year. The truth is that the Bridge is painted continuously. Painting the Bridge is an ongoing task and a primary maintenance job. The paint applied to the Bridge’s steel protects it from the high salt content in the air which can cause the steel to corrode or rust. When I moved out there I wondered why it wasn’t painted Gold but here is the deal…Actually, the term Golden Gate refers to the Golden Gate Strait which is the entrance to the San Francisco Bay from the Pacific Ocean. The picture above is one I took when we lived out there. 🙂