Dealing with Aggressive, Self-Injurious, and Other Challenging Behaviours in Autism
Are you facing challenges with your child's behaviour in the context of autism? Do you often find it difficult to comprehend why, despite your love, attention, and best efforts, you continue to grapple with their behaviour?
Are you torn between two seemingly wrong choices? On one hand, you might feel compelled to give in to your child's demands, seeking momentary peace, but ultimately feeling stifled and overwhelmed. On the other hand, when you muster the strength not to give in, you might have to endure meltdowns and risky behaviours that can be painful to witness.
Challenging behaviours in children with autism can encompass:
- Physical aggression like hitting, biting, scratching, kicking, or head-
- Self-harming behaviours such as hitting themselves.
- Throwing objects.
- Damaging or destroying furniture.
- Non-compliance with instructions.
- Refusal to move when necessary.
- Resistance, including tantrums and lying on the floor.
At times, children with autism might appear to be managing their parents’ responses, momentarily behaving better when parents give in and becoming agitated quickly when parents stand firm. This behaviour stems from their ability to pick up on behavioural patterns from caregivers, especially when there’s a lack of clear guidance on appropriate behaviour. In the absence of such guidance, they develop their own rules and expectations.
Children with autism can face heightened challenges during periods of change, including changes in their environment, routines, or even in the context of parental dynamics. Many parents have observed that their child's struggles with change intensify during or after puberty, often taking them by surprise when their previously effective parenting strategies no longer seem to work.
Several risk factors contribute to challenging behaviours in autism, including:
- Irregular sleep patterns
- Excessive screen time
- Poor dietary habits
- Coexisting conditions like ADHD
As seen from the list above, addressing the underlying causes of challenging behaviours can be a complex task that often requires professional intervention. With the right professional guidance, including a thorough analysis of the root causes and risk factors, it is possible to reduce these challenging behaviours.
How We Can Help:
Our Visiting Educational Psychologist, Ryan Huang, brings over a decade of experience in managing diverse profiles of students in various Special Educational Schools and mental health settings in Singapore. He integrates Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) approaches, the best practices for autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and fundamental behavioural principles to accurately assess behavioural issues before crafting tailored solutions to eliminate challenging behaviours.
Since all behaviours are learned, it is possible to unlearn challenging behaviours by applying the same behavioural principles that contributed to their development.
Our therapists will:
- Collaborate with caregivers to assess the behaviour problem and
identify its root causes.
- Work together with caregivers to develop personalised behaviour
intervention plans addressing the root causes and resolving behaviour issues.
- Provide ongoing monitoring, reviews, and coaching support to
caregivers in managing behaviour problems.
The number of sessions required varies depending on the severity of the behaviour issues, ranging from 15 to 18 sessions for severe to complex cases to 3-8 sessions for milder to moderate issues. Sessions may involve assessment observations, interactions with your child, and coaching for caregivers, either in a clinical or home setting. In cases of very high-risk behaviours, additional therapist aides may be included to ensure effective and safe implementation of behaviour intervention plans.
You might consider Ryan's behavioural support services if:
- Your child with ASD frequently throws tantrums.
- You feel like you are constantly walking on eggshells around your child, fearing triggers.
- Your child exhibits extreme strength and presents unmanageable risk behaviours.
- Your child's frequent meltdowns disrupt family members' quality of life.
- Your child's meltdowns are challenging to handle.
- Your child displays severe aggression.
- You are unsure about how to address your child's dangerous behaviours but wish to avoid sending them to inpatient services.
- You have previously used IMH inpatient/outpatient services for your child, yet their behaviour problems persist.
- You have exhausted all available avenues for behaviour support services for your child.