7 Essential Autism Behavior Management Strategies

Discover the 7 essential autism behavior management strategies! From routines to communication, empower those with autism for success.

Understanding Autism Behavior

When it comes to managing the behavior of individuals with autism, it is important to have a comprehensive understanding of autism behavior and utilize evidence-based practices. Federal mandates and clearly defining the target behavior play a crucial role in this process.

Federal Mandates and Evidence-Based Practices

Two federal laws, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA '04), mandate that educators use evidence-based academic and behavioral practices and programs for children with autism. These laws emphasize the importance of employing strategies that have been proven effective through research and practice [1].

The National Professional Development Center (NPDC) on Autism Spectrum Disorder has identified 27 evidence-based practices for improving outcomes for students with autism. These practices encompass various areas such as communication, social skills, and behavior management. By implementing these evidence-based practices, educators and practitioners can provide effective support for individuals with autism.

Defining Target Behavior

Before implementing behavior management strategies, it is essential to clearly define the target behavior that you want to address. Educators and practitioners should determine the specific behavior they want to change and define it in a way that is directly observable, measurable, and clearly defined. This allows for accurate data collection and evaluation of the effectiveness of interventions.

When defining the target behavior, it is important to consider the individualized education program (IEP) or individualized family service plan (IFSP) of the student. These plans outline the goals and objectives for the student's education and should be taken into account when identifying the target behavior for intervention.

By adhering to federal mandates and implementing evidence-based practices, educators and practitioners can effectively manage the behavior of individuals with autism. Clear and precise definitions of the target behavior ensure that interventions are tailored to the specific needs of each individual.

Implementing Behavior Strategies

When it comes to managing behavior in individuals with autism, implementing effective strategies is essential. Two crucial components of this process are baseline data collection and individualized education programs (IEP).

Baseline Data Collection

Before implementing any behavior strategy or intervention, it is important to collect baseline data. Baseline data serves as a point of reference to compare with data collected after the implementation of a strategy or intervention. This comparison allows educators and practitioners to determine the effectiveness of the chosen approach for the student.

By collecting baseline data, educators can gain insights into the frequency, duration, or intensity of the target behavior. This data acts as a baseline against which progress can be measured. It helps in setting realistic goals and designing appropriate interventions to address the specific behavior.

Individualized Education Programs (IEP)

When implementing behavior strategies for students with autism, educators and practitioners should consider the student's individualized education program (IEP) or individualized family service plan (IFSP). The goal for addressing the target behavior should be included in the student's IEP or IFSP. This ensures that the behavior strategy aligns with the overall goals and objectives outlined in the student's educational plan [1].

The IEP provides a roadmap for the student's education, including specific targets for behavior management. It outlines the individualized strategies and accommodations needed to support the student's learning and behavioral needs. By referring to the IEP, educators can ensure that the behavior strategies implemented are tailored to the unique requirements of the student.

When selecting behavior strategies, educators and practitioners should also consider evidence-based practices (EBPs) that align with the student's needs, the expertise of the staff, and the available resources. It is crucial to choose strategies that have been supported by research and have demonstrated effectiveness in improving targeted behaviors [1].

By incorporating baseline data collection and aligning with the student's IEP, educators can effectively implement behavior strategies that promote positive behavior change and support the learning and development of individuals with autism. These strategies provide a framework for addressing challenging behaviors and creating an inclusive and supportive educational environment.

Essential Behavior Management Strategies

When it comes to managing behavior in individuals with autism, there are several essential strategies that can be highly effective. These strategies focus on creating a structured and supportive environment that promotes positive behavior and reduces challenging behaviors. Three key behavior management strategies for individuals with autism include establishing predictable routines, providing choices, and utilizing positive reinforcement.

Establishing Predictable Routines

Establishing a predictable routine can significantly reduce problematic behaviors in individuals with autism. It brings order to their day and lowers resistance to tasks [2]. Designing a predictable routine is crucial, as many problematic behaviors may stem from reactions to the unpredictability of their environment. By establishing and maintaining a routine, individuals with autism can feel a sense of security and predictability, which can contribute to a calmer and more structured environment.

A predictable routine should include consistent schedules for daily activities, such as waking up, meals, school or work, therapy sessions, and bedtime. Visual supports, such as visual schedules or calendars, can be beneficial in helping individuals with autism understand and follow the routine. The use of visual supports provides a clear visual representation of the daily activities, creating a visual structure that aids in comprehension and reduces anxiety.

Providing Choices

Providing choices to individuals with autism can help mitigate behavior problems by giving them some agency within a predictable routine, particularly with non-preferred activities. Offering choices allows individuals to have a sense of control and autonomy, reducing frustration and resistance.

When providing choices, it's important to offer options that are appropriate and manageable. For example, when getting dressed, you can offer a choice between two outfits or two colors. This allows the individual to have a say in their clothing while still adhering to the routine. By incorporating choices into daily activities, individuals with autism can feel empowered and engaged, leading to a more positive behavioral outcome.

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is a crucial strategy in behavior management for individuals with autism. When a child with autism behaves well, positive reinforcement can provide a blueprint of expected behavior in different situations and offer context for what is acceptable and what is not [2]. Positive reinforcement involves rewarding desired behaviors to increase the likelihood of their recurrence.

The rewards can be in the form of verbal praise, tokens, stickers, or preferred activities. It's essential to identify the specific behaviors that you want to reinforce and provide immediate, specific, and meaningful rewards when those behaviors occur. For example, if a child completes a task without resistance, you can provide verbal praise and a small reward, such as a sticker or a few minutes of a preferred activity.

Consistency in implementing behavior management strategies, including positive reinforcement, is crucial for individuals with autism. Consistency helps minimize anxiety for both the individual and the caregiver, even when dealing with challenging behaviors. By consistently implementing positive reinforcement techniques, individuals with autism can understand the expectations and boundaries, leading to more positive and adaptive behaviors.

By implementing these essential behavior management strategies - establishing predictable routines, providing choices, and utilizing positive reinforcement - individuals with autism can thrive in a structured and supportive environment. These strategies help create a sense of stability, autonomy, and positive reinforcement, contributing to improved behavior and overall well-being.

Consistency and Behavior Management

Consistency plays a vital role in behavior management strategies for individuals with autism. Maintaining consistency helps create a sense of predictability and stability, which can reduce anxiety for both the individual with autism and their caregivers, even when dealing with challenging behaviors [2].

Importance of Consistency

Consistency provides a structured environment that allows individuals with autism to better understand and navigate their surroundings. By following consistent routines and expectations, individuals with autism can better anticipate what will happen next and feel more secure.

Establishing a predictable routine is especially crucial for individuals with autism. A routine brings order to their day and lowers resistance to tasks. Knowing what to expect and when helps reduce anxiety and can significantly reduce problematic behaviors.

In addition to routines, it is essential to maintain consistency in the use of behavior management strategies. Consistent application of strategies allows individuals with autism to understand what is expected of them and what behaviors are deemed acceptable. It helps them develop a clearer understanding of cause and effect in relation to their behaviors.

Coping Skills Development

Teaching coping skills is another critical aspect of behavior management for individuals with autism. Coping skills provide individuals with tools to manage and regulate their behavior in more acceptable ways, reducing the likelihood of challenging behaviors.

Coping skills should be tailored to the unique needs and preferences of each individual with autism. These skills can range from activities like providing sensory toys or offering a quiet space to practice deep breathing techniques. The goal is to equip individuals with autism with strategies to help them navigate and cope with challenging situations or emotions.

By teaching and practicing coping skills, individuals with autism can develop a repertoire of strategies to deal with stress, anxiety, or frustration effectively. These skills empower them to self-regulate and manage their behaviors in a more socially acceptable manner.

Consistency in implementing behavior management strategies and teaching coping skills is essential for individuals with autism. By maintaining a consistent environment and providing the necessary tools to cope with challenging situations, individuals with autism can thrive and lead more fulfilling lives.

Effective Autism Interventions

When it comes to managing behaviors associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), implementing effective interventions is essential. These interventions are designed to address specific needs and promote positive outcomes for individuals with ASD. In this section, we will explore three essential autism interventions: Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI), Naturalistic Developmental Behavioral Intervention (NDBI), and Social Skills Training (SST).

Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI)

Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI) has shown significant effectiveness in improving intelligence and adaptive behaviors in individuals with ASD, particularly when implemented at a young age NCBI. EIBI involves intensive training in various developmental areas and typically begins before the age of 3.

The goal of EIBI is to provide structured and intensive support to individuals with ASD, targeting core areas such as communication, social skills, and behavior management. This intervention utilizes applied behavior analysis (ABA) techniques to teach and reinforce desired behaviors while reducing challenging behaviors.

EIBI programs are tailored to the unique needs of each individual and are often implemented in a one-on-one setting. The duration and intensity of EIBI may vary based on the individual's progress and goals. Research has shown that EIBI can lead to significant improvements in cognitive, language, and social development for individuals with ASD.

Naturalistic Developmental Behavioral Intervention (NDBI)

Naturalistic Developmental Behavioral Intervention (NDBI) combines behavioral principles with a developmental approach to enhance social ability and learning in a natural context NCBI. One example of an NDBI is the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM), which focuses on improving social development and communication skills in children with ASD.

NDBI interventions aim to create opportunities for learning within the child's everyday environment, such as home or school. They emphasize using child-directed activities and play to promote social interaction, communication, and adaptive skills. This approach encourages engagement, motivation, and learning in a natural and meaningful way.

By incorporating the child's interests and following their lead, NDBI interventions foster positive interactions, social engagement, and language development. The goal is to help the child generalize skills learned during intervention sessions to various real-life settings.

Social Skills Training (SST)

Social Skills Training (SST) is an intervention aimed at improving social skills in individuals with ASD. This intervention involves teaching specific social skills through repetitive practice and has shown medium to large effect sizes in improving social skills and social responsiveness.

SST interventions often include structured activities, role-playing, and social stories to teach individuals with ASD appropriate social behaviors and interactions. The intervention focuses on skills such as initiating conversations, maintaining eye contact, understanding nonverbal cues, and taking turns during interactions.

The goal of SST is to provide individuals with ASD with the necessary tools and strategies to navigate social situations more effectively. By targeting social skills deficits, SST interventions can enhance social interactions, relationships, and overall social functioning.

By implementing these essential autism interventions, individuals with ASD can receive targeted support and develop skills that enable them to thrive in various aspects of life. Whether it's through early intensive intervention, naturalistic approaches, or social skills training, these interventions play a crucial role in promoting positive outcomes for individuals with ASD.

Communication Strategies for Autism

Effective communication strategies play a crucial role in supporting individuals with autism in expressing themselves and connecting with others. Here, we will explore three essential communication strategies for autism: Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), Speech Generating Devices (SGDs), and Social Skills Training (SST).

Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)

The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) intervention that teaches individuals with autism to use pictures to communicate their needs. PECS has been shown to be effective in enhancing communication skills, such as initiating conversations and making requests.

PECS involves the use of a communication book or board with pictures representing various objects, actions, and concepts. The individual with autism learns to exchange a specific picture with a communication partner to express their desires or share information. This visual approach provides a structured and concrete way for individuals with autism to engage in communication.

By using PECS, individuals with autism can develop their communication skills and increase their independence in expressing their thoughts and needs. The systematic nature of PECS allows for gradual progress and can be tailored to meet the individual's unique communication abilities and goals.

Speech Generating Devices (SGDs)

Speech Generating Devices (SGDs) have proven to be effective, particularly for children and young adults aged 3 to 20 years old, in improving communication for individuals with autism [4]. SGDs are electronic devices that generate synthesized speech, allowing individuals with limited verbal abilities to communicate their thoughts, desires, and needs.

SGDs typically feature a touchscreen or buttons with pre-programmed symbols, words, or phrases. The individual can select the desired symbols or words, and the device converts them into spoken language. This technology empowers individuals with autism to express themselves effectively, fostering independence and social interaction.

SGDs can be customized to match the user's communication abilities and preferences. They offer a wide range of flexibility, allowing individuals to communicate in various settings and situations. SGDs can greatly enhance communication skills and provide individuals with autism the opportunity to engage with others more effectively.

Social Skills Training (SST)

Social Skills Training (SST) is a communication strategy that focuses on teaching individuals with autism the necessary skills to navigate social interactions and build meaningful relationships. SST aims to enhance social communication, understanding of social cues, and appropriate social behavior.

SST involves structured teaching sessions that focus on specific social skills, such as initiating and maintaining conversations, turn-taking, non-verbal communication, and perspective-taking. These sessions can be conducted in individual or group settings, depending on the individual's needs and goals.

Through SST, individuals with autism learn essential social skills that enable them to interact more effectively with peers, family members, and the broader community. This strategy provides them with the tools and strategies to navigate social situations with confidence and develop meaningful connections.

By implementing these communication strategies, individuals with autism can enhance their communication skills, express their needs and desires, and engage in meaningful social interactions. It is important to consider the unique strengths and needs of each individual when choosing and implementing these strategies, as personalized approaches can further optimize communication outcomes.


[1]: https://iris.peabody.vanderbilt.edu/module/asd2/cresource/q1/p02/

[2]: https://www.autismspecialtygroup.com/blog/7-essential-autism-behavior-management-strategies

[3]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10774556/

[4]: https://www.nu.edu/blog/7-autism-behavior-and-communication-strategies/