Fact sheet: information on creating a behavior  chart fora child with Autism, a common Autism Spectrum Disorder


Positive reinforcement is generally the most effective behavior management strategy in dealing with challenging behaviors of children with autism or Asperger's syndrome. It can also be used to help autistic children to learn new behaviors, from life skills through to alternatives to repetitive behaviors.


Positive reinforcement underlies the majority of all human behavior. We act in certain ways to obtain desirable consequences, whether it is going to work to get our paychecks, or treating others nicely in the hope they will do the same to us. Behavior charts can be a very effective and easy tool for parents to use, whether a child is on the autism spectrum or not.


In their basic form, a child receives a mark on the chart for good behavior. This positive reinforcement is one of the principle keys behind effective interventions such as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), and is very easy for parents to use.


How do behavior charts work?

The desired behavior is listed so the goal is easily understood by the child. The parent and child can talk about the behavior and how it will be rewarded. Inappropriate behaviors are also discussed, so that a child will realize there are consequences – ie. They will not receive a mark on their chart.

Behavior charts can be adapted to suit. For example, a child with Asperger’s syndrome might have trouble handling the abstract concept of playing well with other children or siblings, so the goals can be simplified to concrete terms such as an absence of fighting or hitting.

Your child should work toward some ultimate reward, such as a special treat or outing when ten marks are collected. A visual representation of the reward can help as children on the spectrum often respond better with visual imagery along with the words.

Some parents find that these charts are of no interest, but often this is because it does not fit within the child’s frame of reference. This can be a chance to work with obsessive interests. If a boy is fascinated by fire trucks, then the symbols on the chart could be little fire trucks, and the ultimate reward for ten days of good behavior could be a trip to the local fire station (if the firemen can be talked into this!).


Useful tips

The key to behavior charts is avoiding punishment and focusing on rewards for positive behavior. Don't take marks off for challenging behavior., simply explain that there is no mark for that day because there wasn't enough good behavior. Get excited about good behavior. and heap your child with compliments when you put that mark on the chart!

Keep things achievable too. When you start, make sure that it is very easy to get those marks happening as your child realizes that good behavior has payoffs. Once the concept is working, you can gradually increase the difficulty of the goals, but remember the overriding aim is to encourage your child, not frustrate them with difficult goals.

Some tasks might need some variability, so that a good attempt at the desired behavior. earns three marks out of a potential five. Obviously this will need a higher total for the reward, such as twenty or forty marks before that special treat or excursion.

If the whole idea of a chart doesn't work for your child, the concept can be adapted to suit, whether it is coins stored in a glass bottle, or printing out fake money with your child's face on it ie. $50 collected equals that special treat.

Remember to be consistent. Your child will be easily confused if the rules for the behavior. chart change depending on whether you are in a good mood that day or not! Also make sure that the reward your child is working toward will happen. If that trip to the zoo doesn't happen after all their hard work, it will be hard to maintain their trust and enthusiasm.


There are websites that provide free behavior charts for download. Just enter those words in your search engine and find ones that suit, or use them for ideas of your own.


Click to shut autism information fact sheet on behavior management through behavior charts

Click here for the full range of Asperger's and autism fact sheets at www.autism-help.org
This autism fact sheet is under copyright www.autism-help.org

Positive reinforcement is generally the most effective behavior management strategy in dealing with challenging behaviors of childen with Autism Spectrum Disorders.