by Adrian Pasos
There’s hope in managing the behavior of children with autism. Methodology shows a blueprint of how behavior management principles support the effectiveness of well-planned intervention procedures. Specialist teachers play a critical role in developing and implementing such plan. A well-developed plan is as important as a well-implemented plan. For this reason, methodology works. Success is technically and virtually impossible without methodology.
The way children with autism learn opens up opportunities for a special needs educator to use a number of strategies with a common purpose. But it’s not that easy – at least not as easy as following a procedure “by the book.” A child with autism has other needs that either get in the way of learning or, on the other hand, serve as powerful tools for learning. Experience in teaching children with autism would eventually send the message that the child’s “special needs” may be used to his own advantage. Most of these other “needs” usually refer to the child’s behavior issues, which fall under either behavior deficits or behavior excesses.
Understanding Behavior Management Principles
Knowledge of behavior management principles leads to the formulation of logical methodology. Understanding how the application of these principles work, the teacher can be sure that behavioral objectives can be planned and, therefore, achieved with satisfactory evidences.
Behavioral procedures have proven to be the most effective for achieving planned response-pattern changes in autistic students. Thus, operant conditioning and other behavioral procedures have been successfully employed in a variety of settings to:
1. Decrease aggressive behavior (Brown, Pace & Becker, 1969; Knoll & Simpson, 1979)
2. Increase social interactions (Koegel, Firestone, Kramme & Dunlap, 1974; Strain, Kerr, & Ragland, 1979)
3. Develop functional speech in language (Kerr, Meyerson & Michael, 1965; Risley & Wolf, 1967; Wheeler & Suzler, 1970) 4. Reduce self-injurious behavior (Repp, Deitz, 1974; Tate & Baroff, 1966) 5. Modifies self-stimulatory responses (Foxx & Azrin, 1973; Newman, Whorton & Simpson, 1977)
6. Manage various other behavioral excesses and deficits (Ando, 1977; Simpson & Sasso, 1976)
These procedures have been used successfully by both parents and professionals (Koegel, Glahn & Nieminen, 1978; Risley, 1968) and with a variety of age groups (Birnbrauer, 1978; Plummer, Baer & LeBlanc, 1977). Based on its proven success and problem areas such as those listed, behavior modification is a versatile for managing student’s behavior and facilitating learning.
Operant behavior principles propose that the majority of aberrant behavior of autistic and autistic-like children and youth are assumed to be learned. Further, these behaviors are developed and maintained much the same manner as adaptive responses. This assumption tells us that change in behavior can be planned by unlearning inappropriate and nonfunctional behavior and replacing them with more appropriate responses. This principle also strongly eliminate the argument contended by ill equipped educators that unusual and nonfunctional behaviors are merely a result of unobservable and incomprehensible events. Knowledge of managing operant responses of children with autism does entail a huge difference.
As soon as an educator recognizes that behavioral excesses are major obstructions to learning, he makes every attempt to know these behaviors even more through keen observation and investigation – where, when and how they occur, what factors bring about these responses, how often they occur, who are the frequent objects of these behavior, how long they manifest, how strong they are, what lessens it, what aggravates it,...