How to stop an Autistic child from biting? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 28 Old 04-25-2009, 03:30 PM - Thread Starter
 
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(mods, I put this in SN and not GD because her behavior is *directly* related to being Autistic. Therefore I need suggestions from other parents of Autistic children, not neurutypical children because those suggestions would not be appropriate)

Dakota has started biting. Her aggression level has been getting worse and worse (we're going to her dr soon to discuss medication help)
She's hitting, scratching, kicking, pinching, spitting, and now biting. She has always been aggressive, but now she's big enough that she's actually hurting people.

I'm at a loss of what to do with her. She knows she's not supposed to do this stuff, she knows she'll get in trouble. As soon as she does it and she sees me, she puts her hands in front of her and says 'stop right there!' or something else she's picked up from TV.

Time-out doesn't work for her, she spends the entire time self-injuring and it hasn't curbed a single behaviour. We've recently started taking away her computer when she acts like this. Mainly because it's the only thing she LOVES and it's also usually the reason why she's being a little demon.
However, it's not working either. She just follows me around the house, sobbing, and asking for it back. It also hasn't changed her behaviour.
The past few days, I've sent her upstairs when she screams at me, hits, etc.. I tell her when she's ready to be calm and gentle, she can come down.
Usually 5-10 minutes later, she comes down and starts to play. Within minutes, she's already slapping someone again.

I'm just lost. I don't know what to do. Nothing we're trying is working and it's not like we're not being consistent, yk?
We've also already tried the 'normal' biting stuff like offering something else to bite, redirection, etc..

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#2 of 28 Old 04-25-2009, 05:06 PM
 
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It sounds like biting is just one of several aggressive behaviors (towards herself and others), where some professional help might be useful? OT maybe? I know my son gets a lot more aggressive when he's not getting enough sensory input - he's just two, but I know what you mean about them getting strong!! We haven't really figured out anything that helps prevent the aggression in the moment, either, but regular sensory input helps to avoid those moments.

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#3 of 28 Old 04-25-2009, 05:15 PM - Thread Starter
 
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She gets OT, Speech, and Behavior therapy weekly (OT once, Speech twice, behavior three times, so six total).
We do try to help her out a lot, sensory wise. She has weighted vests, blankets, lap pads, markers, two sensory swings, and a sensory 'box' that she can play in whenever she needs.

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#4 of 28 Old 04-25-2009, 05:16 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Oh and she'll be 5 in June.

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#5 of 28 Old 04-25-2009, 08:18 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kathryn View Post
She gets OT, Speech, and Behavior therapy weekly (OT once, Speech twice, behavior three times, so six total).
We do try to help her out a lot, sensory wise. She has weighted vests, blankets, lap pads, markers, two sensory swings, and a sensory 'box' that she can play in whenever she needs.
OK, so scratch my idea she might need sensory input ! Can she talk to you at all about why she is biting?

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#6 of 28 Old 04-25-2009, 08:32 PM
 
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How verbal is she? Is it possible that it's frustration at the inability to communicate?

Could she handle gum? Something to keep her mouth busy?

Are you able to figure out triggers? Sibling rivalry?

Is it possible she's behaving NT, as aggression is sometimes an nt behavior we just don't like. I've found that my boys (autism and autism symptoms- possible PDD-NOS) hit the 'typical' milestones for behavior later. Example, my now 4 yo loves 'no, i don't want to' and many other things that I think of more typical in younger kids.

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#7 of 28 Old 04-26-2009, 01:34 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mamafish9 View Post
OK, so scratch my idea she might need sensory input ! Can she talk to you at all about why she is biting?
Not really. She has a lot of echolalic speech, but very little to almost none actual generated speech. I've talked with her about how it hurts people, it's not nice, etc.. but she doesn't seem to either get it or care.

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Originally Posted by shelbean91 View Post
How verbal is she? Is it possible that it's frustration at the inability to communicate?

Could she handle gum? Something to keep her mouth busy?

Are you able to figure out triggers? Sibling rivalry?

Is it possible she's behaving NT, as aggression is sometimes an nt behavior we just don't like. I've found that my boys (autism and autism symptoms- possible PDD-NOS) hit the 'typical' milestones for behavior later. Example, my now 4 yo loves 'no, i don't want to' and many other things that I think of more typical in younger kids.
I'm sure some of it is frustration about communication, for sure. I don't know how to remedy that though. She won't do PECS, she knows over 500 signs, but refuses to use them to talk to us, she is learning to read/type in hopes that she'll type out what she wants.

She can't do gum, she pulls it out and starts sticking it to stuff. :

I know the exact triggers. It's anytime she wants something and isn't getting it right.then. If one of her siblings bother her, she hurts them. If they have a toy she wants, she hurts them. If they're too close to her or they won't play with her, she hurts them. Etc...
When something isn't working "right", she hurts herself. And so on. I know exactly why she does it, but I don't know how to fix it.

I've noticed the same delayed behavior stages. I often note that she and our NT 2 1/2 year old seem to do the same things, behavior wise. Our 2 1/2 with Autism is about where she was at 2 1/2.

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#8 of 28 Old 04-26-2009, 01:32 PM
 
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Any way you could work with the other kids to reduce the triggers? From the other ages you have listed, I'm sure that won't work, but just brainstorming. Maybe have separate 'cubes' or work stations for each kiddo to have their own space? Somehow keeping distance between them.

I'm still brainstorming-I'll try to come back later

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#9 of 28 Old 04-26-2009, 01:43 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Yeah, I don't know how well it would work. They're in the total defiance stage of 2 right now.
We usually try to do 'areas' with them, but we only have one computer right now for the kids, so they always fight over that. And we don't have 3 of each toy, so they fight over that as well.
Things usually go well between them if they're coloring, playing with play dough, something that keeps them several feet apart and happy. I don't have enough stuff to last all day though.

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#10 of 28 Old 04-26-2009, 05:42 PM
 
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Ok- for the computer, would a timer work? A cheap timer from target or something, set for 5 minutes (or whatever you decide). Again, not sure of the abilities of your kiddos- it would work for one of mine, not another. Without 3 of the same toy, but with 3 of the 'most desirable toys', again, trying to set up stations with a timer and then 'switch' to move to the next station? Some kids will get a kick out of that, others not. Try playing restaurant- one being the cook, one the waiter, one the customer.

I'm assuming sometimes you want them to interact, sometimes keep space and play independently?

Michelle -mom to Katlyn 4/00 , Jake 3/02, and Seth 5/04
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#11 of 28 Old 06-23-2011, 11:40 AM
 
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Kathryn:

 

Based on your description it sounds like the punishing of your daughter's behavior is actually reinforcing it and causing it to happen more.  This occurs when a child receives ANY attention for their actions....be it a pat on the head or a swat on the bottom (or other punishment).  A child with special needs is no different than any other kid in this instance.  Kids like attention.  Who doesn't?  Most of us get the idea that "negative attention" is not what we would desire for ourselves (as in spanking or sending a kid to their room or removing a favorite activity).  Your daughter also sounds like the follow-up behavior of later following you around and whining is another type of attention getting behavior and relates to her previous misdeeds (or the same type she's about to commit). 

 

I understand your frustration but punishing an autistic child is different than punishing a typical child.  The reason it is different is the propensity for the child to misunderstand the punishment.  Punishment must always be IMMEDIATELY after the incorrect behavior -- otherwise, the child is likely not to understand.  In this case, consistently punishing your daughter is out of the question....it would be abusive.

 

So, what is the solution?  I'm sure you've read about extinction in which the behavior is totally ignored and not given ANY attention at all, but in cases where the behavior is repetitive and damaging to others or even things, extinction will not work.  In the long run just who can tolerate being bitten all the time...especially if those being bitten are young siblings who lack understanding and the ability to deal with the problem.

 

Here's something that will sound weird, but it is immediate, it can be CONSISTENT,  it is a type of quasi-punishment and it is sure to drive the point home.  Bite her back.  Outrageous, I know.  Beyond the pale, but bite her back, gently and consistently.  After you try it and "get it down" then share the technique with your daughter's siblings and let them use the technique.  You can also make her a fun sock puppet for her to use to "bite" with -- like other toys, the couch, a plant, etc., but never people.  You can show her how to use the sock puppet to replace the biting behavior and let her see how EFFECTIVE the sock puppet "biting" can be (get the family in on the powers of the sock puppet).  You get the idea.

 

I hope this helps you.  Best of luck...

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#12 of 28 Old 06-23-2011, 02:55 PM
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I felt like a broken record when my oldest was little. I was constantly saying, "mouths are for kisses." I tried to never say the word biting. I didn't want to be suggestive. I'd also make sure your child isn't in any tooth pain from cavities or teeth coming in. Also look into what your child might be so angry over.


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#13 of 28 Old 06-23-2011, 04:36 PM
 
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Would her behavioral therapist be able to work on a behavior plan with you?  At first I felt really...odd, I guess...about the way the ABA folks talk about behaviors and consequences, but they really help sometimes.  Generally for my dd her therapist analyzes the behavior, like you've pretty much done to identify what causes it, and what maintains it.  Then we get a long, super detailed plan of what to do before, during and after an incident.  It's always super emphasized to be neutral, no yelling, no explanations, just calm removal from situation, or reminder of the rules, whatever the plan is.  Lots of positive reinforcement and praise when she does it right, and modeling of developmentally appropriate behaviors.  Sometimes we do a reinforcement program every ten minutes/hour/whatever amount of time that she's doing xyz behavior, so that she can see she's getting it right.  She's a bit older and more verbal, though, and I don't remember how we did it at the stage you're at.  Honestly, a lot of the time it was just making it through the day.  I don't know how helpful any of this is, but it sounds like things are tough now and you're doing an awesome job identifying what's going on and trying to support everyone.

 

I am horrified that anyone would suggest biting her back and teaching her siblings to bite her.  Absolutely horrified.

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#14 of 28 Old 06-23-2011, 11:17 PM
 
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Mine bites scratches pinches non verbal and its when she doesn't get what she wants. Mine is so much younger so I doubt i am of any help but interested in what others might have to say. I did buy her teething sensory necklaces so she could bite those when angry which didn't really work for me. I either plan that she is going to have a melt down so have something to distract right away or I will grab her by the shoulders (so she's not near me lol) and do some hard massages and joint compressions and it settles her down asap. Not sure if that will work when she's older. I still see her jaw after people but those people have learned to be quick (or else). Again she's small even though she's busted my teeth a few times.

 

When I went to autism training classes the one major thing they said over and over is you cannot punish an autistic child. They don't get it. They won't get it. They don't relate the two things at all. You give them limited options and limited questions. You have to tell them how it's going to be in other words.

 

There was a grandma there who desperately wanted to punish the child with no bed time movie if he hadn't cleaned his area and the teachers were begging her NOT to do that. that it wouldn't work (and it wasn't). It was and is a hard concept for mainstream people to understand. Autistic kids are just on a different playing field and you have to learn how to get in there and figure it out.

 

My dd now tries to bite the floor which is better but still weird and will only bite you if really pissed. She needs a lot of compression and massage. I noticed if she has 10 minutes of say body massage or swinging by the arms (joint compression) then she is awesome for quite a long while. She will actually go out and seek these things herself like bouncing her tummy against the couch or wadding a blanket up and rocking her tummy on it with her legs indian style.

 

I think this is the book we had in school http://www.amazon.com/Teaching-Social-Communication-Children-Autism/dp/1606234420/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1308895546&sr=8-3

 

It's a tough tough road. We also had a mini weighted vest (so adorable! as she is not only two but very petite and the smallest size was too big almost and those itty bitty weights lol.). I also find people specifically trained in autism "get it" more than speech and OT people who work with everybody.

 

And btw biting back does NOT help. I was getting hurt THAT bad and did it and all it did was make me feel like sht and realize she has a super high pain tolerance and couldn't give a rat's behind what I did. Again autistic kids don't relate the same way.

 

It's like an alien teaching you how to write alienese with an alien pen and you have no idea that's what they are doing in the first place or even trying to get you to do and you can't see the ink. It doesn't make sense and it's not going to that way. It's just not the same as an  ehhh "easier" child.

 

I hope  you get some good advice and I can steal it as I am sure I will be having these same problems.

Good luck!~

 

Oh I also pet her face. She likes that and she closes her eyes like it's raining marshmellows on her. Just an accidental discovery lol. Not as good as massage but does calm her down.

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#15 of 28 Old 09-17-2011, 06:27 AM
 
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I too am having problems with my 4 year old daughter biting. She just bit a teacher and a student this week and I received a phone call yesterday telling me it would be best if she didn't return to school until they could come up with some sort of plan. I am so bummed that I cannot find a way to help her.

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#16 of 28 Old 09-17-2011, 06:56 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Yeah, we never would even consider biting back or teaching her siblings to do that.

 

This thread is a couple years old and she's 7 now. She is much more verbal (but quickly stops talking if she gets overwhelmed or upset). She eventually stopped biting on her own, but is still pretty violent when angry and slaps, kicks, etc..

The only thing we've really found to help is just be super proactive. If she's starting to get upset at all, we get her out of the situation. She does have to sit in her room until she calms down when she attacks someone, just to keep them safe.


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#17 of 28 Old 09-17-2011, 08:05 AM
 
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So, can you tell me what had to happen for her to quit biting? How long did it take for her to stop? I know our children are all different, but I just wanted some idea. My daughter is not allowed back in school until the biting issue is resolved. I really don't like that she has to be taken out of school, but I understand the school is looking out for the safety of other children in her class. I am just so sad that I don't have any answers. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! Thanks for your time!

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#18 of 28 Old 09-17-2011, 08:08 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kathryn View Post

Yeah, we never would even consider biting back or teaching her siblings to do that.

 

This thread is a couple years old and she's 7 now. She is much more verbal (but quickly stops talking if she gets overwhelmed or upset). She eventually stopped biting on her own, but is still pretty violent when angry and slaps, kicks, etc..

The only thing we've really found to help is just be super proactive. If she's starting to get upset at all, we get her out of the situation. She does have to sit in her room until she calms down when she attacks someone, just to keep them safe.



So any suggestions on how to help my 4 year old daughter with her biting issues? She is not allowed back at school until the issue is resolved and I'm fearful for her education. She does not speak at all yet and so it is difficult to know what will work for her in this instance. Any suggestions?

 

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#19 of 28 Old 09-17-2011, 08:49 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Do you know why she's biting? The only thing that helped us at all was just limiting what was making her bite. If her siblings were bothering her, we ended up moving her or them somewhere else, even as hard as that was. We always offered something to bite on when she got near biting and that helped - sometimes.

Is she in a special needs classroom or a general education classroom? Does she have a para?


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#20 of 28 Old 09-19-2011, 04:51 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TrishM View Post

So, can you tell me what had to happen for her to quit biting? How long did it take for her to stop? I know our children are all different, but I just wanted some idea. My daughter is not allowed back in school until the biting issue is resolved. I really don't like that she has to be taken out of school, but I understand the school is looking out for the safety of other children in her class. I am just so sad that I don't have any answers. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! Thanks for your time!



Occupational Therapy:  Willbarger protocol including the oral component every 1 1/2 to 2 hours when awake.  chewlery.  oral fidgets. frozen beeswax to chew.  zvibe. games with straws (to suck and to blow ie straw to eat pudding with, or straw to blow a little crumpled piece of paper across the table. it's not enough to  have sensory materials available.  there needs to be a schedule that is followed.  the key is prevention, once the biting is happening, you're playing catch up with OT and as you know it's really hard to get caught up.  this can be made part of your child's iep in the school setting and her sea can be trained to do this with her every hour and a half.

Nutritional:  gfcf diet, feingold program.  investigate mineral deficiencies.  my son chews his clothes sometimes (not other people, thank god) and it gets worse if he's low in minerals, especially magnesium and calcium

Social Stories:  just talking about it is often inadequate, these kids are really visual, so need visual instruction.  make up a comic strip story/social story (as in carol gray) and go over it a LOT~3-4 times a day probably.  again, this is preventative.  i wouldnt pull out a social story when the biting is going on, it needs to be when your child is able to concentrate and take it in.

craniosacral therapy:  i've read that this can be really helpful for behaviours especially the biting ones, for kids on the spectrum.  i havent tried it though as we dont have a practitioner close enough to us to make it worthwhile


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#21 of 28 Old 09-21-2011, 05:50 PM
 
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I don't have much to add here, just wanted to share that we have similar issues with DS (turning 7 in a couple of weeks). Punishment never works for him, it just makes the situation much worse and raises his anxiety levels even higher. What we do when he is getting violent is take him to our room (the kids' room is too full of things he can throw and break; they share a room and there are only 2 bedrooms in our house). But he can't be left alone because he will make a mess and try to break stuff, etc so someone has to be there with him. It's a tough dance - he needs to be somewhat physically restrained so he doesn't try to break or wreck stuff, but if we get too close he will hit us kick us etc so we need to keep ourselves safe. I tried the "holding" thing but that made him really freak out. The GFCF diet does seem to be helping reduce the frequency and magnitude of these incidences, but they are still an issue. We just got him an autism diagnosis and are now in the process of building a support team for him (we homeschool, but get funding through a provincial homeschool program). This has made me feel a lot better as we will now have help and new ideas on how to not only deal with this situations but also work to teaching him better coping skills. 

 


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#22 of 28 Old 08-02-2012, 03:46 PM
 
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my nine year old has starting about 2wks ago biting, started with the matron on the bus to the aid in the class, and therapist at home...the principal called me three  times and finally today they had to suspend her for the day...

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#23 of 28 Old 02-28-2014, 10:32 AM
 
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We are also at a loss.  My son is 4.  He bites, hits, kicks, pulls hair.  He is aggressive towards other children his age and his teacher.   We do not know what to do to help him control his behavior.   We got asked to not come back to our 2nd daycare today and are very frustrated.  I wish we could find some way to help him.  He is verbal but not enough to talk to us about what is going on.   Today he bit a little girl in her eye and that was the last straw for the daycare.    Afterwards he is very sad and tries to say he is sorry but he is so strong and he really hurts the other children when he is in his fit of anger.   I have been reading through the comments... he is in therapy.. he has sensory things that help.  I feel like we have done everything and do not know what else to do :( 

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#24 of 28 Old 02-28-2014, 05:11 PM
 
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I would really recommend getting a FBA to find out what drives the biting behavior.

 

They will observe for hours and then get objective data on what comes right before and right after the behavior. Then you will get a behavior plan out of that. A good behavior plan based of a well done FBA helps you know what to do (and not to do) in response to the behavior. More importantly, then you can over-teach the correct behavior to helps the child get what they want or need.

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#25 of 28 Old 03-04-2014, 08:32 PM
 
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I don't know if it would work in your case, but for my daughter we gave her something to chew on, they have "chewelry" out now - but I guess she just needed some oral stimulation? HTH

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#26 of 28 Old 03-07-2014, 03:10 PM
 
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It's interesting to see this thread revived. My son is now 9 and doesn't bite anymore. He can still get aggressive during a meltdown (throwing things, knocking over chairs, hitting people) but thankfully these incidents are becoming very rare.

 

The OPs daughter was not very verbal so I'm not sure how much this would help, but we have been having really good results with a clinical counsellor who does Michelle Garcia Winner type stuff, floortime type stuff, and cognitive-behavioural therapy. He has been working with DS for almost 2 years now and we've seen huge, huge progress. 

 

As others have said, the first and most important issue is to recognize what triggers the meltdowns/aggression and work to eliminate those triggers. To the poster who said her daughter was removed from school - this is unacceptable! What your daughter needs is an aid, a Special Ed Assistant whose job is to shadow her and prevent her from being able to hurt anyone. My son had an aid in preschool and from that day forward nobody else ever got hurt. I'm pretty sure that schools in the US are required, by law, to provide kids with whatever they need to be included in the classroom. Sending her home and saying "it's your problem" is just unacceptable!!

 

Once the preventative stuff is taken care of, it's time to move on to helping the child learn the skills they need to eventually stop the behaviour. First is getting them to recognize when they are experiencing those feelings that lead to them melting down (frustration). After the meltdown has passed (because you cannot teach anybody anything when they are in that state) you say things like "The remote ran out of batteries and that made you so FRUSTRATED. You were really ANGRY about that!". You are giving them language. You can ask them "how did your body feel right before you threw the remote?". After they have the language you move on to "when you are feeling that way what can you do?" and give them just one or two simple options like "take a break" or "ask a grownup for help". We drummed this into my son's head over and over again and it worked. Eventually he got better and better at regulating himself. It is still up to us to make sure his environment isn't working against him, but slowly and surely he is learning to control his behaviours. 

 

He is high-functioning and I don't know how much of this is realistic for lower-functioning kids. I just wanted to share my experiences and emphasize that it is a long road, but it can get better. <hugs>


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#27 of 28 Old 05-02-2014, 12:08 PM
 
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I'm not sure if anyone is still reading this, but I have a few suggestions. Try different sensory activities. If they start getting agitated, give them something to distract them such as shaving foam, jelly, gloop, etc. Music works well too, and if possible out bright lights on the tv. treehugger.gif

Another technique I find with one or two children is counting down. I think this would be targeted at children who find change difficult and need prompting/preparation to change activities. Being told specifically what you want of them and their name in a firm voice, I.e. Rhys! Chair! 5-4-3-2-1!

For those with children who use PECS, a 'now and next' May help. Of course this help with children who find changing activities difficult. Using this with a timer seems extra helpful so they have time to prepare and absorb what you have told them.

Leaving them I a room on their own may help, provide their supervised somehow, camera maybe? Or possibly a small window if they're small enough to not be able to reach it, I'm pretty sure most autistic people have self soothing methods like rocking, flapping, etc. maybe make their room as bare as possible so they're able to go in there to cool off. If they have any favourite toys, maybe give them that in a difficult situation provided it's plastic or difficult to break. Or let them play with water, or put water in a disposable rubber gloves and tie the end so it looks like a hand.

I'm sure that most of you already know these, I'm just trying to help though who don't smile.gif
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#28 of 28 Old 09-03-2014, 04:23 AM
 
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Cool

Thank you so much to all for sharing your experiences and info. We have a little biter and you have given me some hope. Many thanks and please keep sharing.
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