Everyone loves to interact with others and experience enjoyable outcomes. It is gratifying to smile. It feels pleasant when we are experiencing tranquil moods. Positivity creates good moments. By building positive behavior supports for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), we can eliminate challenging behaviors and replace them with prosocial alternatives. Each family, classroom and work space benefits from building positive behavioral supports that are simple and achievable.
- mix positive verbal language with responsive language
- reinforce appropriate behaviors
- understand the difference between positive and negative reinforcement
- overlook the importance of being specific
- forget about structure and rules
- underestimate the importance of positive language
Using positive language is very important for kids with ASD. There is a big difference between telling your child to stop whining and saying, “Let’s use a kindergarten voice with sentences when we talk.” You should immediately follow this positive language with role playing. Be sure to have fun. For example, one family member can be the “whiner” and another can be the “super talker.” This will allow children who learn best in a multi-sensory approach to hear, see and move through this particular social skill.
Reinforce appropriate behaviors as soon as you catch them. Just as you schedule time to read at bedtime, pencil in time where you concentrate on reinforcing the right behaviors. During these moments, catch kids while they are being good. These rituals will strengthen your skills as a parent and establish positive behavioral supports, as well as provide time for your children to practice making the right choices.
Positive reinforcement is adding something or someone to a situation to increase a desired behavior. These reinforcers can be social (smiles and thumbs-up), active (spending extra time together) and tangible (stickers and allowance). Negative reinforcement is simply removing something or someone from a situation to increase desired behavior. Some examples include being allowed to leave the dinner table early for polite manners or having one less chore due to keeping homework organized for an entire week.
Try to be very specific when reinforcing behaviors through labeling. When friends cook dinner, we complement them with details such as, “That fish was perfectly cooked.” It is the same with raising well-behaved children. For example, some phrases may include: “You were so calm and quiet in church today…nice job,” “That handwriting is perfectly neat,” and “Wow! You took a shower and brushed your teeth all by yourself.” This style of speech will begin to flow off your tongue as positive behavioral supports flourish.
Every child thrives on structure and rules. An important life lesson to learn at an early age is when important rules are broken, consequences will occur. Keep punishment simple and specific. Punishment is either positive or negative. You can add or remove something or someone to decrease undesirable behavior.
Rules to follow at home work best when worded in positive language. For example, a positive rule can be worded as, “When I am told no, I will stay calm and maybe we can talk about it tomorrow.” If you must give a consequence, it can be worded as, “Right now, you are screaming because I told you no. The TV will be turned off until after dinner. Let me know when you are feeling calm.”
When building habits, it is vital to rehearse in order to create synchronicity and behavioral momentum. To implement positive guidance techniques, don’t forget to keep it simple and achievable. Practice makes perfect and positivity can become contagious.