Challenging Behaviour Series: Social Attention
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In the autism field, when we refer to “behaviours” we refer to actions and skills. It is important to understand that behaviours are a form of communication. They have a function, and each behaviour, no matter how mild or extreme, are always trying to tell us something. The purpose of our challenging behaviour series is to understand what certain challenging behaviours are trying to tell us. By learning what these behaviours mean, we can then create strategies to help decrease these behaviours.
If you’re a parent or caregiver of someone with autism, you may have experienced some challenging behaviours. These behaviours can be hard to understand but they’re not random. Many individuals with autism have communication difficulties so they might act out in order to communicate.
We wanted to begin our challenging behaviour series with a focus on social attention or attention seeking behaviours. Attention seeking behaviour is when an individual engages in a behaviour to get a reaction from others. This might include a number of inappropriate behaviours:
Our goal is to to reduce these behaviours. Here are a few strategies you can use at home to help decrease attention seeking behaviour.
1. First step is to ignore and wait the behaviour out. Some ways you can do this is by looking at your watch, looking at your phone or engaging in conversation with another person (this can be simple as slightly changing your body orientation, so you are looking in another direction.)
2. Once the behaviour subsides, you can acknowledge the person and engage with them again
3. Always give attention and praise appropriate behaviours such as when they are doing their work, playing nicely with their siblings or waiting quietly while you finish talking to their therapist.
Remember there are a lot of strategies you can use to help decrease inappropriate behaviours but the key is to be patient and consistent. With time, you will see a difference.
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