Behavior Challenges

Behavior Challenges... An Opportunity to Teach Kids "What to Do"

When students with autism engage in challenging behaviors it is natural for teachers and staff to focus all of their attention on the challenging behaviors, especially when the behaviors quickly escalate. During these times, a team’s response is primarily “reactive” and the goal shifts to one of crisis-management to keep students and staff safe. Once the crisis is over, it is important for teams to assess, reflect, and learn from the incident and identify proactive strategies that may prevent future challenging behaviors. In other words, challenging behaviors tell us that an environmental, behavioral, or instructional change is needed! For examples of proactive strategies to prevent challenging behaviors see the Routine Teaching Plan: Snack example below. To create your own, download the attached blank form.

For many students with autism, a common antecedent or trigger for challenging behaviors is the initiation of a functional routine. Functional routines include those daily activities that make up a student’s instructional day such as arrival and departure from school, transitioning between activities, using the restroom, eating a snack, washing their hands, recess and circle times and other small group activities. Routines can break complex tasks into small teachable steps by telling a student where to go, what to do, and what will happen next. The STAR Classroom Routine Planning Form can help staff identify: specific skills to target and teach before (Pre-teaching) and during a routine, appropriate cues to use, visual/environmental supports, prompting strategies, and positive behavior strategies that can be used to prevent challenging behaviors.See the Instructional Strategies Quick Guide & Additional Tips below for a list of strategies to consider during routines.

Routine Teaching: Snack

Instructional Strategies Quick Guide

  • Ensure effective environmental and visual supports are in place.
  • Use a reinforcement system at the student’s level when teaching a new skill or difficult step of the routine.
  • Provide the student effective prompts throughout the routine.
  • Break the routine down into small teachable steps.Do you need to break the routine steps down further?
  • Ask yourself: Does the student have the skills or prerequisite knowledge to understand the concepts needed for this routine? Does the student know what to do?
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Additional Tips: During Routine Teaching

  • Limit language
  • Increase nonverbal communication
  • Use declarative language
  • Tell the student “what to do.”
  • When prompting: gain student’s attention

Suggested Prompting Sequence:

  • 1 verbal prompt
  • Gestural/facial expression
  • Visual prompt
  • Physical prompt with visual