Managing Challenging Behaviours in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder

Managing Challenging Behaviours in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder

Cristina Dumitru, Dana-Elena Ciobanu
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-8217-6.ch008
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Managing challenging behaviours is crucially important in order for a child to start learning, and this chapter provides teachers with certain tips and recommendations that are meant to improve the quality of life of autistic children, which implies, in particular, increasing their level of independence, the ability to establish social relationships, the opportunity to study and work, access to outdoor and leisure activities. The main aims of this chapter would be addressing the development of new positive behaviour skills which will facilitate social interaction, communication, and learning readiness and the reduction of undesirable forms of behaviour (aggression, self-aggression, hysterics, fears, unusual interests, stereotype behaviours), which are the main factors that hinder socialization and learning. This chapter will present some instruments to collect data about managing behaviours, interpret the data, and address the challenging behaviour in an appropriate manner.
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Behavioural Disorders Of Children With Autism

Autism is a developmental disorder characterized by qualitative impairments in communication, social interaction, and a tendency to stereotypical behaviours (American Psychiatric Publication, 2013). Children with Autism have serious difficulties to adapt to a new situation, or to changes in the situation. Most often, children with Autism have some specific behaviours like:

  • Avoidance of social interaction and communication.

  • Stereotypical (repetitive, weird) movements (like rotation, claps, complex body movements).

  • Tendency to always perform meaningless rituals and monotonous routine actions (spinning the wheel of a toy-car for hours in a row, moving a rope).

  • Significant delay in self-care skills development (eating, washing, dressing).

  • Very specific and narrow interests.

  • Lack of play-skills. Children with Autism do not play, but they have stereotypical actions that might resemble play (they can spin the wheel of a toy-car, shift objects). They have a lot of fears (of darkness, of closed doors, of the noise of water), but especially typical for autistic children is the fear of any change, the fear of novelty (neophobia). Neophobia is a barrier to learning, because learning means to pass the frontier of what you know and what you can do to discovering new things. Unfortunately, new information in the child’s environment brings a lot of insecurity, frustration and any change can cause a violent protest.

  • Hysterical manifestations (aggressiveness, high-pitched crying, seizures, meltdown, tantrum) towards something intolerable to him/her (against any interference in his/her program, attempts to change the prevailing stereotypes).

Challenging behaviours hinder learning engagement and the most frequent disruptive behaviours identified by teachers are (Peeters, 2009):

  • Repeated exits from the working place

  • Speaking out of context

  • Permanent interruptions of the teacher

  • Destruction of teaching materials

  • Repeated questioning

  • Lack of response to demands

  • Refusal to interact with the teacher, or with the colleagues

  • Difficulty to adapt to changes and transitions

  • Slow pace of work

  • Crying, screaming, hitting objects, or the people around.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Independent-Life Skills: Are all necessary skills for an independent life, like personal hygiene, dressing and clothing care, health care, home management and home safety, financial management, communication access, personal growth, awareness, and problem solving, community access.

Behavioral Disorders: Involve a pattern of disruptive behaviors in children that last for at least 6 months and hinder learning engagement and adaptation in and to social situations.

Challenging Behaviors: Behaviours that interfere with a child’s optimal development and learning, harm other people or are dangerous from their point of view.

Inappropriate Behaviors: Refers to behaviors that are not appropriate to a social context or to a specific context, some examples of inappropriate behaviors in classrooms are lateness or leaving early, inappropriate cellphone and laptop usage in class, side conversations, cheating, interruptions, etc.

Self-Aggression: Behaviors that are self-directed and can cause physical or emotional harm.

Aggression: Behaviors that can cause physical or emotional harm to others.

Stereotyped Behaviors: Well-defined behavioral acts which are repeated over and over again and which seem to be without any apparent adaptive function unlike other behaviors (such as many instinctive acts) which, although often formally very stereotyped in form clearly fulfil an adaptive purpose.

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD): A lifelong neurodevelopmental disorder, identified by behavioral symptoms as poor social interactions, qualitative impairments in verbal and non-verbal communication, along with narrow interest and stereotyped behaviors.

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