October 8

Autism Society of NC Meeting – Posted on 10/08/19


Autism Society of NC has chapter meetings in Durham once a month and I recently attended one last month. The topic of the meeting was Preventing Challenging Behaviors. What attracted me to this meeting was not only the topic but the fact that the speaker at this meeting was a BCBA. A BCBA is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst who has education and field experience as it pertains to using evidenced based strategies with children with Autism or other developmental issues. They are experts about how to manage challenging behaviors in these children and use research and data to identify root causes of their maladaptive behaviors.

Well, I needed such a meeting because my son, Trey likes to engage in negative attention seeking behaviors such as blowing spit bubbles or making loud noises in class or anywhere he does not want to be. He also will go to lengths of regurgitating his food to get activities to stop and people away from him. Since getting older, he is also becomingly increasingly aggressive and defiant. At home, he is like a teenager. He loves to stomp his feet, slam doors, throw things, and hit/kick walls. In fact, this weekend, he kicked a hole in the wall near the bottom bunk where he lays to go to sleep. He did this because he could not come in my room because I was tired of dealing with his bad behavior all weekend and was resting since I had a headache. Whatever he has to do to get what he wants, he will…

The past chapter meeting was very informative and gave me the exact takeaways I needed. It mostly taught me that my gut was right and Trey’s purpose for engaging in some of his behaviors came from four general reasons for maladaptive behaviors: 1) to get a away from an undesired activity/place 2) to gain attention 3) sensory overload, or 4) self-stimulatory. Out of these the hardest to treat is self-stimulatory. Self-stimulatory behaviors otherwise known as stimming are intrinsically rewarded because they feel good and because of this, are hardest to address or minimize. Trey loves to stim with the mouth noises and it does it because to him, it feels good. Spitting bubbles, making loud noises, putting things in his mouth,  hand biting, or regurgitating are all due to it giving him some sort of pleasure while it gives everyone else displeasure. I have been trying to address these behavior for years but according the BCBA, as long as it is not impacting his ability to function such as learn in his classroom environment, then it should not be the focus of intervention. These other antecedents are much easier to treat and are easier to address with different tools and strategies.

Visual aids such as a picture schedule are a great way to help Autistic children know what is happening next. You can get a bunch of pictures off the internet and laminate them so you can create your own schedule at home or if your child is in a separate setting at school, this will naturally be created for him. Children with Autism think in pictures and need things adapted to the way in which they understand and learn. As the BCBA shared, if your child has anxiety over going to Target, create a picture schedule where you would have a printed picture of the Target bulls-eye symbol on their picture schedule so they know that’s where they are going that day. Children, in general, like to know what to expect but Autistic children NEED to know what to expect from every minute to every hour. So, having this visual aid as a guide at home, may be helpful so they don’t overreact to unexpected events.

Another awesome aid to consider is headphones for sensory overload. Noise cancelling headphones are great for children that are sensory sensitive to loud noises that may cause them to act out in public. I have seen many a child with headphones and it seems to help them remain calm as well as allows them the ability to participate in activities with their neuro-typical peers. In addition, neuro-typical peers can be as loud and noisy as they want (as most children are) without disturbing their neuro-atypical peers. It fosters an environment of inclusion as well as sensory sensitivity. Noise cancelling headphones are pretty easy to find and can be found at your local Walmart or on Amazon at pretty affordable prices for great quality.

In addition, if your Autistic child seeks attention and they are non-verbal or have a limited verbal ability, consider alternative ways for them to communicate such as writing down what they want or if they can’t write, there are communication apps on Ipads such as Lamp WFL or Avac AAC app. These apps contain pictures that your child can tap on that will create sentences that will give auditory output. I will warn you that these apps are costly so what I would recommend is asking your child’s school if they can do a technology assistance evaluation on your child. This evaluator will then meet with your child and determine the child’s needs as it relates to the best device to assist with his/her communication. Therefore, if an Ipad is what is recommended, then these apps will be downloaded on it for free and your child will have use of the Ipad at school and it can be approved to take it home, as needed. You can also inquire from the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation about loaner I-pads from their NC Assistance Technology Program. I received one over the summer for my son and am still using it until I get the one designated for him from his school.

I highly recommend that if you are a parent or care-giver of a child with Autism and live in the Durham-Raleigh area that you consider attending one of these meetings. The next meeting, won’t actually be a meeting but an event at Union Baptist Church in Durham where they will be hosting a costume festival on October 26th. Great way to get to know other parents of children with Autism and allow your child to be in an inclusive environment that welcomes those with special needs. So have fun!!! I might be in attendance myself to meet with all that come.

Last but not least,  I want to leave you with a quote from a song, that I find inspirational, especially as a parent of a child with Autism who deals with challenges on a daily basis:

“I had my ups and downs
But I always find the inner strength to pull myself up
I was served lemons, but I made lemonade.” ~ Freedom by Beyonce


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