MAINTAINING A POSITIVE
DEALING WITH CHALLENGING BEHAVIORS
Attitude is the first place to focus when supporting
people with challenging
tantrums, threats, screaming, emotional outbursts and inappropriate
behavior can be frustrating, emotionally demanding and lead to many
negative feelings which can influence how we interact with the child.
However a positive attitude is the foundation
upon which other supports are built. A positive attitude by parents,
family members, teachers and therapists can either make or break
a support plan for a person with autism,
or other developmental disorder. Sometimes even the best behavior
support plans can be jeopardized by negative attitudes. A negative
attitude can stop a person (even subconsciously) from carrying out
the plan in a genuine and enthusiastic manner.
Sometimes it does seem almost impossible to keep
positive thoughts in the face of persistent and intense behavior,
such as anger, aggression, or destruction. Despite this we need
to remain focused and remember that we are here to support these
individuals and encourage them to improve themselves and their opportunities
Ways to Stay Positive
Concentrate on the positives, not the negatives
Try to look at the person’s abilities rather than
the effects of autism or Asperger's syndrome. Everyone has strengths
and is capable of learning new skills. To do this you will need
to separate the behavior from the individual. The behavior may be
undesirable or even offensive, but it is only one aspect of the
Stay objective and take control over your emotions
Try to remain objective in your responses. Attitude
is not something that happens to you, it is something you choose,
whether you are a parent, therapist or school teacher. A bad mood
is no excuse for a poor attitude towards a person displaying challenging behaviors. Try to take ownership and control of your emotions. Emotions
come from how people think about the behavior, not the behavior
Choose how you respond to behaviors
The way you think about the behavior and the child
will shape the way you respond. If you see the behavior as manipulative
and a deliberate attempt to upset you personally, then your response
is going to be one filled with emotion and clouded objectivity.
If you think that the behavior may be an attempt to communicate
a need, or a sign of frustration and confusion, you can choose to
respond differently. Choosing to think in this manner does not mean
that the behavior is acceptable and so you don't need to respond.
It just allows you to depersonalize the situation and change the
way you respond.
See the world through their eyes
Understanding the situation from the individual’s
perspective can increase your understanding and empathy. All behavior
has a purpose – it may be the person’s way of expressing something,
or it may be their only way of exerting some control over their
life. Read as much as you can about autism, Asperger's syndrome
and other Autism Spectrum Disorders, to understand what the world
is like through their eyes. Read the story Let
me tell you about my autism.
Research, evaluate and try various strategies
Be open-minded about what works or is worth investigating.
It is often a combination of various strategies and sensible ideas
that begin to lift the pressure when struggling to establish a balance
between the needs of all involved. Even if some strategies have
been tried before, they may succeed this time round, with different
people or a more consistent approach.
There are many support groups for parents of children
with autism and related disorders. Being able to share the anguish,
joys and tribulations can be a huge source of support, especially
when dealing with challenging behaviors. Contact your local autism
or Asperger's Association to see if there's a group in your area.
If not, you can link up with others over the Internet through forums.
Focus on the outcomes
Focus on the outcomes. Try to think about what
you are really trying to achieve for the person concerned. Try to
focus on the outcomes or goals of the positive approach. Measure
the progress, even if small, it is still an achievement by all involved.
Take the time to praise yourself for the effort and acknowledge
It won't happen overnight...
Remember that change is slow. There are no ‘magic
answers’, regardless of whether a child has autism or not. Try to
use your common sense, and consider whether the individual needs
to change or whether someone else around them needs to change.
reducing your stress levels
There are a number of small things that you may
be able to do in order to reduce your stress levels and hence maintain
a positive focus:
• Give yourself permission to ask for help
• Have problem- solving sessions with other parents
• Organize your own group discussion time to debrief and talk
about your emotions and experiences
• Remember exercise helps to counter the effects of stress
• Practice cognitive methods such as positive self-talk, to
get yourself through the difficult times
• Develop your own reaction plan and emotional management
plan for when you become stressed.
• Formal training in stress management or relaxation skills
is also beneficial.
to read about self-care strategies for parents.
to go to the Behavior & Life skills page
Click here for the full range of Asperger's
and autism fact sheets and personal stories at www.autism-help.org
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