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For some children performing a particular skill may be challenging for them, which often leads to problem behaviours. Therefore, it is important to determine the functions of the behaviour. Behaviours may include: attention, tangible, sensory, and escape.
What does escape look like?
Today, we are going to focus on escape. Typically, a child will try to “escape” whenever the demand that is placed upon them is too much or when the task is too difficult for them. This behaviour may look like: running away, crying, shouting, placing their heads onto the table, “shutting down” (or refusing to respond), throwing things off the table, and hitting.
For a child who has difficulty expressing himself/herself, these behaviours are just a means for them to communicate to us that they are not able to perform the task.
What can we do when a child’s behaviour is about escape?
With children who are non-verbal or partially verbal, the first step might be to look at teaching them functional communication. For example: handing over the ‘help’ compic whenever they require assistance with something. Obviously we need to also teach to the skill deficit. In other words, teach them the skill they cannot do.
For younger children, we would usually prioritise learning to learn skills. Instead of telling them to “sit down” and “behave”, we will focus on skills such as eye contact, sitting still on the mat/chair, manding (requesting), joint attention, matching, etc. Without these skills, a child will not be able to attend to new information as they are being presented to them. Nor are they ready to learn new skills.
For higher functioning children, we still need to identify the skills that needs teaching. However it may look very different to a younger child’s needs. The skills needed may be more of a social skills. Some children find social interaction really challenging. Therefore we might look at skills like maintaining eye contact, respecting other people’s personal space, knowing when it is appropriate to interrupt a conversation, how to interrupt a conversation appropriately, reading another person’s body language, understanding other people’s emotions, recalling past events, staying on topic, etc.
By stepping back and looking at the function of the behaviour, we can gain insight into what supports the child needs. From there its about breaking down a difficult task into small achievable steps via task analysis. At the end of the day we want our children to develop competency across the range of skills needed in daily life.
Please feel free to contact myself or Jasmine Fyfe on 9274 7062 for further information on how we can help your child.
Assistant Program Manager, ABACAS