Managing Behaviors

One topic that I have been approached about over and over is managing behaviors. Whether parents are concerned about harmless ones such as arm flapping or detrimental ones such as head banging, there are a few things to take into consideration.

Point one, is this behavior harming anyone? If your child becomes excited and flaps their adorable arms is this bothering anyone. In some cases this is an issue of awareness and acceptance. Of course parents want their child to be perceived as the same and not stand out negatively in any manner. However, when thinking about eliminating behaviors I sometimes wonder if this is more of a problem external to your child. Is it time for others to accept and appreciate your child for who they are.

Point two, we need to assess what your child is getting out of this behavior. Why are they head banging or hitting you? Is it an avoidance behavior to get out of something they don’t like? Or is there something bothering them? How can we figure this out. Well there are a number of helpful mapping tools where you collect data on when your child is doing such behaviors. A certified BCBA or ABA therapist can help with this. You can use an interval recording form to track a behavior, what preceded (or came before) it and what happened after your child did the behavior. This way you can come up with a plan to stop the behavior. If the behavior seems to have a sensory origin then sensory interventions should be able to help it (such as the brushing protocol, noise eliminating headphones) or you may be able to reduce or avoid the noxious sensory stimuli (fluorescent lighting is a common culprit).

For Example, Beautiful 5 year old Sarah is hitting her teachers and parents. When tracking the data we find that she is doing it whenever she has to sit down to write, and after she does hitting she is put into time out. In order to extinguish this behavior the hitting should be prevented but ignored and she should not be able to get out of the writing task.

Here is a free link to my favorite interval recording form:

https://0.tqn.com/z/g/specialed/library/Data-Collection-Forms/Interval-Recording-Template.pdf

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About

My name is Salma, I am an Occupational Therapist and mom of 4 beautiful boys (mashAllah). I am also a Muslimah and hope to help and inspire parents with my insight and expertise that I have gained over several years. I began my OT journey at NYU 10 years ago. Since graduating in 2012, I have done extended courses in Sensory Integration and other topics such as Handwriting. I would love to help parents of special needs children. So if you are looking for activity ideas, troubleshooting your child’s sensory behavior or learning about a new diagnosis you are in the right place for information, support and community.