Five Functions of Undesirable Behavior
All behavior has a function and purpose. There are five
main functions of undesirable behavior, and four of them go hand-in-hand with
autism. It is important for the speech-language pathologist and the entire team to recognize how any
particular behavior is reinforced and enabled.
children and adults with autism exhibit negative behaviors due to avoidance? Do
they ever pretend not to hear? Do they ask unrelated questions in order to evade
a topic? Yes, yes and yes.
Asperger's population is especially clever at avoiding verbal and non-verbal cues
in social situations. Many of these are intentional and many are not. Topic
maintenance is a language skill that comes to my mind right away that is often
lacking in individuals with autism spectrum disorder. It is certainly not
always deliberate and there are many strategies for dealing with this behavior
and area of language deficit.
Of the five functions of undesirable behavior, attention seeking is the least likely
to be attributed to a person with ASD. That is because they are not really
looking for attention like typically developing children. Children with ASD turn inward and
we are more than likely to find the other four functions of negative behavior
to be more prominent.
lack of ability to communicate successfully is a paramount reason for
undesirable behavior. Children
and adults with ASD have documented issues with their receptive,
expressive and pragmatic speech and language skills. When a person cannot
understand and/or be understood, behaviors take center stage. Social
communication with this population is awkward, misunderstood and misleading to
the person with ASD as well as to the listener. From childhood through adulthood,
communication is a major cause of negative behavior. This can be exhibited
through non-verbal and verbal behaviors.
behaviors, such as hand flapping, head banging, self-mutilation, tapping,
running back and forth, jumping up and down, and compulsive behaviors all serve
a purpose for the person with autism. Of course, they are undesirable
behaviors. Although these behaviors are difficult to change they are not
impossible to alter. Many of them need gradual, step-by-step shaping over long
periods of time. It is important for the team to determine more socially
acceptable behaviors to replace the unacceptable ones.
post "Autism in One Word" describes the stress level of children and adults with ASD. Stress is enormous.
The fear of communication alone is like climbing a mountain each day. Add in the
bullying and their misinterpretation of the world and it is understandable why these
individuals engage in behaviors to reduce stress and anxiety.
It is the goal of the team to explore and find acceptable and socially
appropriate behaviors to reduce the stress level.
- Behavior changes are slow
- Persistence is necessary
- Consistency is paramount
- Change must be made across environments
- Many changes are best made in small steps
and shaped into a desirable behavior
- Under times of stress, people always return
to familiar (old and comfortable) behavior
to Change Behaviors
Join me next week as I
explore strategies for changing undesirable behaviors.
pathologists make good things happen."