June 08, 2022 3 min read

Approaching Behaviour Management in Children with Autism

It should be noted that the autism spectrum is very multidimensional. It technically acts more like a wheel than a timeline. The overall approach for managing difficult behaviours with autistic children should focus, first and foremost, on the child as an individual. Any one child with an autism spectrum disorder may have any of a number of problematic behaviour problems, or they may have none at all. ASD is a developmental and neurological disorder that can look different depending on the affected individual. According to the DSM-5, those with ASD often have a hard time interacting and communicating with others, display restricted interests, and demonstrate behaviors that are repetitive. Children with autism may also have other symptoms that can impact all areas of life. Some of the best strategies for managing difficult behaviours in children are the same as those you would use with any other children. Other strategies do heavily take into account the needs of each unique autistic child, such as in sensory processing, treating them with flexibility, and respecting their personal space.


No One Size Fits All

There is a reason why many teachers have a toolbox of strategies for behaviour management at the ready on a moment’s notice. Considering that there are so many unique children in this world, who all have individual needs, goals, and backgrounds, there is no true “one size fits all” approach. The most successful behaviour strategies for classroom management with students who have ASD include providing a structured environment and schedule with smooth transitions. It is also important to offer calming, re-centering activities, provide opportunities for meaningful interaction with others, and take into account sensory needs. Role modelling appropriate, desirable behaviour can be very effective. Additionally, using descriptive praise can be a very effective way to provide encouragement while emphasising the importance of a desired behaviour. 


Behaviour Strategies for Students with Autism in the Classroom

Behaviour strategies for children with autism should focus on the child as an individual. Positive reinforcement can be helpful when trying to teach a child a desired behaviour. Among some of the most commonly used behaviour strategies are Positive Behaviour Intervention Strategies. PBIS are sometimes popular in schools because those strategies are more easily shared with the entire school. This makes it easier for students to be met with consistent expectations across the board. Many of the most effective strategies for teaching students with autism based on research include components of PBIS and other clinically proven strategies. 


Utilising Sensory Strategies for Autism in the Classroom 

Something that should be noted is that children on the spectrum often have difficulties with processing sensory input. Oftentimes, the most helpful thing we can provide for these children is a quieter place to go where they can calm down and collect themselves in peace. Overstimulation can be a very real issue. Having a quiet place, such as a calm corner, can make such a difference in the ability of a child not only to cope, but also to thrive and grow.  


Where to Begin

One thing that sometimes works extremely well for autistic students is presenting them with a toolbox of strategies that they can use to help them be successful. Success with this can be dependent upon where the specific child falls on the spectrum, but it can be an effective place to start. Once the child is demonstrating the desired behaviour, track it, encourage it, and reward it. 


Helpful Resources to Consider

Thankfully, Your Teacher’s Pet Creature has some excellent resources that can help with improving classroom behavior management in students with ASD. Check out these visual classroom guidelines to help students know what to expect. You might also want to try out this positive behaviour ladder to see if it works in your classroom. 


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