Imagine the following scenario. It is is a hot summer day and you have a million errands to do. You have been running back and forth from store to store trying to get home in time to get your child off the bus. You are parched but there is no way you have time for to stop and get an ice cold latte. Then, from the corner of your eye, you see it, a little gift from heaven – a vending machine! You dig through your purse to find buger tissues, sticky candies your son must have put in there, a few Legos and just enough quarters to get a delicious bottle of water. You put your money in, press the button and the unthinkable happens…. Nothing comes out…..
What do you do? Do you just walk away? Of course not!
You punch the numbers again!
When that doesn’t work, you tap the machine lightly, and then ….. Maybe, not so lightly.
Then you go full on crazy on it! You kick it, it shake, and scream in frustration.
Finally, if none of that works, eventually you walk away…
You may be thinking- what does this have to do with my child with Autism?
Everything! When children start a behavior program, parents expect all of those behaviors they don’t want to see go away right away. However, more often than not, immediately after starting a behavior program, they will actually get worse. Just like you escalate from tapping the numbers on the vending machine to shaking it, your child’s behavior will likely also escalate before it goes away.
The hard truth is that your child is used to getting what he wants as a result of his behavior. If it in the past crying got him out of eating dinner, when you longer let him escape dinner because of crying, he is likely to try more intense behavior before giving up! This ia a very frustrating but natural part of the process. However, as long as you stay strong and don’t give in, just like you walked away from the vending machine, eventually the behaviors will stop.
The technical term for this phenomena is an extinction burst. I will be honest, it is not he most pleasant part of ABA for the child or therapist. I can only imagine how frustrating it is for a family. Naturally, you higher a behaviorist because you want them to make your child’s life easier, not more difficult. If this is happening to you and your family, the good news is, if you hang in there! I promise, it will get better!