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Behavior Modifications for Autistic Students

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Autism: The Behavior Goals or Objectives

When establishing a goal for your student, you must ensure that the goal is observable, how it will be measured and how it will be performed, and under which circumstances? For instance, let's say you want the student to get the teacher's or teacher's aide's attention. It would be stated something like this:
The student will raise their arm when the teacher is not busy after the task (finished eating, finished sorting etc.) has been completed.

3 Questions To Ask Yourself:

  1. What behavior do you want from your student? This should be a verb.
  2. How well or long should the student perform the desired behavior?
  3. What are the cirumstances under which this behavior will be performed?

Remember, changing and teaching new behaviors to autistic or severely disabled students takes a consistent approach and very keen observation. The behavior model requires excellent observation. Objectives need to be meaninful, something that the student is not yet doing, relevant yet achievable.

After the Objectives are in Place

Now that you have clearly defined objectives, you're ready for the instruction phase. This is essentially a 3-step process. Ask yourself the following: What is the stimulus? What does the response look like? What is the reward or consequence?

The stimulus could be a vocal command (3...2...1...or child's name), finished tasks, a light flicker, a clap etc. The stimulus is what precedes the expected behavior (goal). The response is what the child does that lets you know that that the desired behavior occurred....or didn't. The consequence or reward is praise, food, reprimands etc. You should now be able to complete the following:

  • State the goal
  • Identify the stimulus
  • Identify the student response
  • Identify the reward or consequence.

Rewards and consequences are quite important and need to be specific to the child's behavior that you are trying to improve or change. Essentially there are three types: Those that are eaten, those that are felt (games, toys, sensory) and those that are social. Discovering the consequences/rewards that work for autistic or severely disabled students will be your challenge. You will need a variety of consequences/rewards at your disposal to be able to determine which one will work for you.

Once the above is in place, you'll need to observe very carefully, this will let you know whether you need to make changes to your plan. Remember, there are entire books written to support behavior modification, I've attempted to provide you with an in the nutshell approach. Your dedication and determination to implement goals for your special students will work with a consistent approach over time, patience is everything but very worth the while.

It can be very rewarding to see a child with autism start the habit of saying toilet, or pointing to the door of the washroom, or pointing to their mouth to indicate they are hungry. They may seem like small steps but these are really big milestones and worth every effort!

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