Autism and behaviorsOne of my students with autism can often become violent when routines are changed at school or at home.  Unfortunately this student has become very attached to me and feels the...

Autism and behaviors

One of my students with autism can often become violent when routines are changed at school or at home.  Unfortunately this student has become very attached to me and feels the need to take a swing at me when things are uncomfortable.  My student is on medication which greatly reduces these problems but since Mom often forgets to administer this medication she sends it to school with her child to take each morning.  Unfortunately this means mornings are insane, especially since my aides arrive about half an hour after the student and I have other children in the class with behaviors.  Any ideas on how I can help this child keep control and not end up being restrained on a daily basis?

Expert Answers
clairewait eNotes educator| Certified Educator

My first thought is to create some sort of DEFINITE and instant morning routine for this student.  It would have to be age appropriate of course, but I'm also thinking something that he/she could do completely independently would be good.

Coming in and reading or writing to a journal prompt may not be appropriate for this student - but perhaps a task or a job that needs to get done: watering a plant, feeding fish, cleaning the window... something that is important (makes the student feel needed), doesn't change, and engages him/her in independent physical activity.

I had a high school student similar to this in a regular classroom (not autistic however, just anger problems, possibly not the same thing at all) - anyway, I taught him how to file papers.  *I realize this is not terribly difficult, but I am exceedingly Type-A in my classroom and wouldn't let just any student file for me.*  The kid loved it.  Every day when he came in he would take care of this and then start the journal a little later than everyone else.  I think because it took him (briefly) away from the class - but was his own routine, it allowed him to meditatively settle himself.  Sometimes he would actually catch himself getting angry (usually at another student) and approach me saying, "Mrs. Wait - I really need to file some papers."  If I had nothing for him this was a cue to let him step outside and chill out - otherwise I'd let him file more papers.

That's all I've got.  Hope you figure something out.

lrwilliams eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While it sounds like it may be a medication issue, you might also try a picture schedule that the student can look at and know what he is expected to do each morning. Also another option might be a social story, maybe even one that can be read at home before he leaves school and then one that can be read upon arrival to school.

sjogren | Student

I agree that an FBA and positive supports are needed for this student, but these do take time and it may be determined that the antecedent is the medication not being administered.  I would recommend that in addition to using the FBA you set up positive supports in the form of setting the student up to succeed for the first part of the morning where he struggles the most.  Instead of attempting to have him work on tasks that he finds hard, have a morning routine where he is working on activities that he enjoys the most.

If possible have the student involved in setting up this routine so that he is able to feel more in control of his environment. Due to the seriousness of his behaviors I would go so far as to recommend him being able to choose almost any safe activity for his morning routine, such as playing a computer game he finds calming. Even though this may mean that the student is missing a large chunk of his morning, it may well help avoid the need for physical restraint and help him work better for the rest of the day.

Also, would it be possible to help the mom in administering the medication regularly?  I had one student where I would call his house about a half an hour before school to remind him to take his medication, and if he did then he recieved a reward once he got to school (for him it worked to have a muffin waiting for him).  While making a phone call every day was inconvenient, the time and frustration it saved made it well worth it.

jstrejcek | Student

I would first do a functional behavior assessment (FBA) and positive behavior support plan for this student (PBSP).

A functional behavior assessment (FBA) is simply looking at the antecedent to the behavior, the problem behavior itself, and the consequences that are maintaining this behavior.  An example may be, the student is hitting you.  The antecedent to this may be that you ask the student to write in his journal.  The consequence that is maintaining the behavior may be a physical restraint.  The FBA can be as detailed as you like, recording how many times the behavior occurs, who is in the room when it occurs, how long it lasts, and can include anything else you find useful in presenting data to the parent or administration.  You will then use this data to create the positive behavior support plan (PBSP).

The PBSP will name the behavior of concern and explain what causes it and what is maintaining it.  It is very important to be very objective when discussing the behavior. You will then write goals to create a positive behavior to replace the one of concern.  An example may be, student will use positive coping methods rather than hitting teacher for 25 consecutive days.  Lastly, you will need to write ways you will reinforce the good behavior and supports you and other staff will use to prevent the behavior from happening.  A support in this case may be teaching relaxation techniques and creating a visual morning schedule.