Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Autism Behavior - Communication

Behavior is something which all children display in one form or another. Our child's behavior tells those around them many things about their wants, needs, and desires. The most important thing to understand about behavior is that it is a form of communication. It is a complicated form of communication, but a truly basic one.

Typical children are much better at verbal communication skills than children with autism. Typical children do not always rely on physical behavior to relate a message. Often, children with autism are telling us a lot with their behavior. They can be giving an answer, asking a question or expressing a frustrated response.

Some behaviors expressed by children with autism may be appropriate or inappropriate depending on the situation. Inappropriate behaviors give a negative aspect to our children's learning experience.

It does not matter if the negative behavior occurs in a social situation or academic situation. A negative behavior must be dealt with so that the child with autism can acquire as much information as possible. Some undesired behaviors can not be eliminated. In that case those behaviors should be exchanged with desirable behaviors the child can use.  In order to do this, it is both the teacher's and parent's responsibility to teach the child to "change their mind" as my dad says.

One of the stories a family related to me was a teacher who was asking their child a question. Just for example we are going to say the question was 'What is 2 + 2?' This family's child did not understand the question. Their child did not even know how to answer the teacher.  It is very common for children with autism to have auditory deficits and not be able to focus on what he's being asked. As far as I'm concerned, if the government insist on inclusion, then this bit of information should automatically be listed in the teacher's handbook.

The first thing their child did was to become withdrawn. The well meaning teacher went closer to the child and asked again. Now this family's child became aggressive and used some really choice curse words.  While the well meaning teacher wants to help the child, the child with autism perceives this as an invasion of his space, or an attack.  Dayton's perception would be that he's in trouble and under attack. His auditory processing is severely impaired, and he while he can speak, it doesn't mean that he is able to process verbal questions or instructions all of the time.  For the most part, he's pretty good at it, but sometimes...  let's just say that there are times were he's over stimulated by sounds, smells and too many things going on in the classroom...  Auditory processing (hearing and understanding what the speaker is trying to convey to you) and speaking yourself are two completely different things.  While closely connected, they are not the same thing.

A little understanding of a child with Autism and communication can help this situation. If a parent and teacher wish to change this undesirable behavior they need to replace it. This is done by teaching a child a different technique or method of getting what they want.  In order to do this, parents and teachers MUST work together.  Furthermore, the policy of "inclusion" orders for the teacher to accommodate special need students.  Most children with autism are very visual learners, so the teacher should accommodate visually to the child, instead of giving auditory instructions.  Furthermore, replacing the behavior is NOT ENOUGH.  The child needs to practice the replacement behavior.  Children with autism do not automatically learn things like typical children do, they must practice over and over in order to "get it."

Tell the child with autism that when they do not understand what someone is asking they can raise their hand. This is a technique to let the adult know what is going on. Another technique is to teach the child to say a special word or phrase instead of cursing. This also gives adults involved a cue that they are feeling frustrated. 
Then everyone involved has to understand if they do not respond to those cues the behavior will escalate!!!  These are two simple but possibly effective way to help or change behavior in a positive way. Changing or shaping the behavior will help the child with autism have an environment more in line with their learning needs.  As most children with autism have difficulties with auditory processing, the teacher could then write down or draw the question out for the child with autism, which would most likely have a better response.

Now many of you would say "a child cursing?  That is highly inappropriate!  Where is the child learning these words?" as many of the teachers themselves think.  Let me assure you that parents of autistic children do not condone cursing from their children.   It is not acceptable behavior.  To answer your question, it is not the parents that teach their autistic children how to curse.  Dayton NEVER curses at home, EVER.

The trick is to convince the school your child attends, that they should heed your advice, and not be judgemental of your parenting.  If you're fortunate enough to have a school that works with you, this should not be a problem.  If you're fortunate enough to have a school that understands autism, then again, your job will be easier.  For those of struggling on both counts,  we need to figure out a solution...  Any suggestions or ideas are most welcome!!! 

Consider yourselves hugged,


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