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


Effective responses to challenging behavior arising from autism or Asperger's syndrome rarely happen by chance. A successful strategy will require a disciplined approach that coordinates and implements a number of steps.


In some cases, there can be many behavioral issues involved. Try working on one or two, starting with the most severe ones or those most likely to cause the child or others harm. Creating a behavior management program involves a number of steps.


What are the steps in creating a behavior management program?

The steps for responding to challenging behavior include:

• What is the challenging behavior?
• What causes and influences the challenging behavior?
• What changes are expected and how will they be measured?
• Choosing a strategy for change
• Develop a behavior management program.


What is the challenging behavior?

It is usually best to only work on one or two behaviors at a time. Each challenging behavior requires a different strategy. It is important to prioritize which behaviors will be addressed first. It will help if there is a way to measure the behavior. This will help in seeing how effective a program is. Examples of measurement are how often and where does the behavior occur, how long does it last and how do people react to it?


What causes the challenging behavior?

The causes or influences of challenging behavior may be divided into:

• Individual factors

• Environmental factors

• Factors related to people.


This step involves what is often called a functional behavior assessment. It is a description of the behavior, the context it occurs in, and its consequences. A therapist or parent acts a 'behavior detective' to find out what causes a particular behavior. Some possible reasons include:

• Wanting attention
• To get a desired object or activity
• Change of sensory stimulation ie. temperature, hearing, sense of touch or motion
• Emotional control ie. self-calming if anxious, or stimulation if feeling down
• Escape from an unpleasant situation.

The behavior is analysed in terms of the ABC approach:

ANTECEDENT - what triggers the behavior

BEHAVIOR - what is the actual behavior that results

CONSEQUENCE - what happens in response to the behavior.


A behavior program can work on all three of these steps, such as minimizing the triggers for a behavior, shaping more appropriate behavior in the child, and manipulating the consequences to encourage more appropriate behavior ie. ignoring is the consquences of attention-seeking behavior.


What changes are expected, and how will they be measured?

Setting realistic goals for change involves:
• The degree to which the behaviors may be eliminated, reduced, increased or influenced
• The child's capacity to control the behavior
• The child's level of insight and reasoning skills
• The environment (structure and consistency)
• The ability and willingness of people around the person to assist with strategies.

Behavior should be measured prior to the intervention to provide a ‘baseline’ against which progress can be compared. The period of time spent measuring the behavior needs to be long enough to provide a representative view.


Click here to download charts you can use to monitor behavior over time.


Which strategy or approach will be used?

There are many different approaches and strategies to encourage individuals on the autism spectrum to change their behavior. The suitability and effectiveness of each option will vary according to the individuals with a brain injury, the people around them and the environment. Some of the most commonly used approaches are:
• Modifying the environment or routine

Ignoring the behavior

• Distracting the child
• Rewarding a child for an alternative behavior
• Changing expectations and demands placed upon the child
• Teaching the child new skills and behaviors

• Modification techniques such as desensitization and graded extinction
• Changing how people around the child react
Time out


How do I develop a behavior management program?

The key questions in developing a behavior management program include:
• What are the specific behaviors to address?
• What is the current pattern of behavior?
• What is the goal for change?
• What are the steps towards achieving the goal?
• How will change be recognized and monitored?
• What approach or combination of approaches is most likely to be effective?

For all carers and family members involved in the program, a consistent approach is often the most significant factor influencing success. The expectations of behavioral change also need to be clearly defined and realistic. It may not be possible to change all behaviors at once, or in all situations.


Click to shut autism information fact sheet on behavior management

Click here for the full range of Asperger's and autism fact sheets at www.autism-help.org
This article adapted with permission from www.biaq.com.au and remains under their copyright

Appropriate responses to challenging behavior arising from Autism or Asperger's syndrome rarely happen by chance. A good strategy will require a disciplined approach that coordinates and implements a number of steps to create effective behavior programs for children on the autism spectrum.