Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The hits just keep on comin'

I wrote previously about Bud's new attitude and about him telling people he was going to hit them. It seems he's started making good on his threats, and we have a bit of a hitting and kicking problem on our hands at school. Though he is probably dysregulated when the hitting happens, it appears to be the sort of dysregulation borne of not getting his own way, e.g., it is someone else's turn on the computer and he'd rather not hand it over just yet.

We know that scolding and demands for obedience don't work. Reminders to use "gentle hands and feet" and that "hitting hurts" yield a quick (if insincere) "sorry," but have no lasting impact.

A social story?

Some sort of reward chart?

I know we need to do something soon, before Bud settles into this pattern of dealing with his frustration by acting out physically, but I just don't know what.

So, friends in Autismland, got any words of advice?


Kristina Chew said...

What is Bud's teacher's thought about this? Has anything changed in the classroom? (Perhaps there is something he does directly after or before the computer that he has developed a dislike of, so it's even harder to give up the computer.)

I guess I'd suggest trying to do a sort of "FBA"--Functional Behavior Assessment"--to figure out what is setting it off. Does Bud have the hitting behavior at any other times? Is it always with the same children? Is there some particular phrase Bud is being told; has he become more absorbed--obsessive, even--about a particular computer game?

As for strategies---When Charlie has had trouble putting away a toy or favored activity, we have sometimes used a timer. He needs to know in advance that he can play for 5 minutes, perhaps, so it is not so abrupt when it is time to put something away. We always try to have something around--some "positive reinforcement"--after Charlie successfull puts away a favored toy, so that cleaning up has positive associations. Different Roads to Learning has some timers, not all of which look like you took them out of the kitchen drawer.

Another thing we have done that has helped is to have a schedule for "playtime." Charlie tends to have most of his behaviors during unscheduled time, so we have a schedule (ours has pictures but you could use words, of course). Seeing the cards helps Charlie know the steps of the activity and that there is a beginning an end--that there are limits and closure. And Bud could get a reward--a sticker--for completing each step of the schedule, or (if that seems best) for successfull stoping computer play.

"No" or "you are NOT supposed to do that" have not been very effective for Charlie. I do sort of a limited social stories approach--a few sentences about what we're playing, for how long, what we'll do when it is over. But too many words confuse Charlie when is upset.

I hope the teacher gets right on it! Be wary of the "let's wait and see, maybe the problem will get better on its own" attitude. Charlie has had far worse behaviors but one reason they got so bad is that they were given that "wait and see" approach--a behavior would lessen and go away for a while, and then come back like a nemesis. I also always keep in mind, Charlie feels bad after he does something he oughtn't---he is fully aware that he has done something bad, and sometimes--my poor boy!--he does something worse because he feels bad.

Keep us posted!

Eileen said...

Not sure if I have much to add to what Kristina wrote, but I wonder does this only happen when he needs to give up his computer time? Perhaps a visual schedule would be helpful. Maybe schedule another activity he likes right after computer time. Or maybe the teacher needs to be there as a buffer and to provide guidance knowing that this transition is difficult for him. Does Bud have an aide? Good luck, let us know how it all works out.

MOM-NOS said...

Kristina, thanks so much for your thoughts. It's really helpful. I don't know if there is a pattern to what is triggering the behavior. I used the computer as one example, but my sense is that's not the one and only trigger. Luckily, Bud's teacher is intuitive, proactive and "hands on," so I don't see her taking a wait-and-see approach. She's also had a lot of success with timers!

Eileen, Bud does use a visual schedule at school and it's VERY helpful.

This is great - keep those ideas coming!

kyra said...

gee, if wonderful you (and his wonderful teacher) aren't able to come up with some external change (in routine at school or home, in the behavior of one of the other kids) and have ruled out illness (since fluffy is So very affected by even the slightest sickness, it really throws him off) then maybe it's, dare i say, a 'good' sign? often, previously 'compliant' kids can 'wake up' to the idea that they think what they think and other people think what THEY think, extending that to others wanting what THEY want when THEY want it, and woa boy, that' s big nut to swallow. it means our kids may become more challenging to deal with when they aren't getting their way but it also means it may be coming, perhaps, from a 'good' developmental place? a cognitive leap? dr. g. mentions that since kids on the spectrum have SIGNIFICANT difficulty with encoding episodic memory, they often also have a hard time with its precursor, cause & effect memory. our kids need help noticing when they are about to do the thing they know is not okay. we need to spotlight the moment BEFORE not so much only the moment after (which is when they realize what they've done) and help them practice taking the physical action of NOT hiting or NOT throwing or NOT grabbing, etc. this way our kids can develop competence in INHIBITION which, in turn, creates a growing sense of personal power. don't know if this is what is going on with bud, but since this makes so much sense to me and we are trying to do it with fluffy, i thought i'd pass it on!

Shawn said...

I agree with Kristina on the FBA. If there's no one available to do it, try tracking the triggers yourself. If he's doing it to get something, I suggest directing him to the appropriate behavior ("Use your words", "Ask if you can have a turn", etc) and then reward the appropriate behavior. For example, if he asks for a turn, praise him, tell him he can have a turn in 10 minutes, and we can play a game until then.

gretchen said...

Henry's aggression has really subsided in recent months. I believe it's probably a combination of things: he's in a really small, super-structured class now (as opposed to previous situations), and hopefully is better at "using his words" to convey displeasure. But one thing his teachers do that seems to help is a happy face/sad face chart. If he hurts any of his "friends", his name gets moved to the sad face. The teachers offer him many opportunities to get moved back to the happy face, so his day can have a good ending, even if there were a few bumps along the way. If he has "gentle hands" all day, he gets to pick a reward.

I know he is always excited to report to us that he had gentle hands, or got to pick a reward, so it seems to leave an impression on him. They also sent home a social story about gentle hands, mentioning all his "friends" by name.

I don't know about Bud, but Henry's aggression always seemed to have an ulterior motive to me. Still, some mornings when I put him in the car for school, he reaches up and (softly) pinches my face. Then he sadly says "you pinched my face". And I say, I know, it's ok. Not sure what this ritual means unless he's telling me that he really is sad about leaving me...