Let’s face it. Most children with Autism have very limited communication. For some kids, this results in a lot of wanted behaviors — tantrums, crying, hitting, sometimes even self injury. Whether or this sounds like it applies to you, if your child has an Autism diagnosis, at some point they will likely have a behavior plan to help reduce a behavior.
IF written correctly and applied consistently, a behavior plan works every time. But- that’s a pretty big IF. To be honest, there are a number of things that can go wrong when writing a behavior plan. Every child is different! But, there is one mistake that is super common that will ensure a behavior plan fails every time.
It’s when the therapist forgets to teach a replacement behavior for the behavior they are trying to do reduce.
If a child has limited communication, crying may not be their way of being naughty or non compliant. It does not mean they are spoiled, bratty or that as a parent you have done something wrong. Most often, it means that is the only way they have of getting what they want. It is probably even more frustrating for them as it is for you.
If you try to get a child to stop crying to get what they want- you have to teach them another way to achieve the same goal. Us experts call it teaching a functionally equivalent replacement behavior.
For example, if your child cries every time they want to play with the iPad – teaching them it is not okay to cry if they don’t get the iPad is not enough. You have to teach them a way to ask for it! There are so many alternative communication methods available to children who are still learning to talk. One of them will work for your child.
One of my favorite sayings I have ever heard in my eleven year professional career in the field of Autism is, “Just because a child can’t talk, does not mean they have nothing to say!”
If a therapist keeps this in mind when writing a behavior plan, it will always work.