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Throwing objects

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Samuel Hunter

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We have a child who throws objects in the air. This is becoming more dangerous each day. He will throw anything in the air but doesn't look at how it falls or where it lands. Any ideas how we can try and stop this behavior.

 

Edited on February 23, 2017 - 9:10am

September 10, 2014 - 3:49pm

Hi Samuel.

I understand that you would like a bit of advice regarding a child that you're working with who is throwing objects in the air.

Firstly, with any behaviour that keeps happening, it is important to try to establish why the behaviour is happening.   It can be useful to know that a behaviour will only keep happening if it continues to meet the child's needs.  In order to try to manage and reduce the behaviour, it is really useful to find out what the trigger or function of the behaviour is.  Once this is identified, it is much easier to know how and where to support the child,  what skills to teach the child or how to adapt the environment to support their needs.

It is always useful to check that there aren't any medical/dental causes to the behaviour I.e. the child is throwing items due to frustration from being in pain and are unable to express what they are feeling.   It can therefore be useful to speak with parents about having check ups with GP and dentist.

Another things to consider is if there have been any changes recently in the child's life?  If the behaviour has just started happening, it can be useful to look back at whether there were any changes at home or school just prior to the behaviour happening.   Changes can be something like a piece of furniture moving at home or changes to classroom timetable.   Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can find it difficult to cope with change and therefore become unsettled. This could be a reason for the child's behaviour altering.

After these things have been ruled out, the next thing is to try and track the boy's behaviour, in order to try to establish what is causing the behaviour.   A way of doing this is by using an ABC Chart where you can keep a record of the behaviour by recording the time and date of the behaviour, what happened immediately before the behaviour (antecedent), what the behaviour was and what happened immediately after the behaviour (consequence). The consequence includes how the staff are responding to him. This will help you to establish if there are any patterns to the behaviour, and perhaps what the triggers or function may be (sensory overload, attention, wanting something, trying to avoid something etc). I have included our behaviour guidelines below that include information about keeping a behaviour diary, including a template of a behaviour chart.

Do any of you have an idea as to why the child might be throwing things?    There may be a few reasons why it is happening:

  • They may be throwing as a form of play/interaction, in that they do not know the appropriate way of playing with that particular item.
  • They may be throwing an item as a way of expressing their feelings e.g. because they are frustrated, and it is their way of getting their feelings out. 
  • It may also be that they are disinterested in the object and it is their way of trying to stop the task/activity.  Throwing the item they are supposed to be playing/working with may also be their way of removing themselves out of the situation.  Often when a child throws something, they may be almost immediately taken out of the classroom and therefore get out of the situation almost immediately, into a more preferred environment.
  • They may be throwing an item due to their sensory needs - the child may be throwing an item solely for the sensory experience (prioprioceptive feedback) of doing this.   For example, the feeling that they get from an item leaving their hand to it flying off.  They could also enjoy the experience of seeing it move in the air or the noise it makes when it lands.
  • It may be that the child is throwing items because it is their way of getting out of a situation they aren't enjoying.  For example, they may throw something, and almost immediately, get taken out of the classroom.  This may lead them to link throwing an item with going somewhere more preferable.
  • The child may be throwing an item because they enjoy the response that it gives them.

Some things to try:

*Make sure all staff are consistent with their response to the throwing behaviour - an inconsistent response can mean the child becomes more anxious and can be unclear as to what the boundaries are.

*Limit your response as much as possible (limit facial expressions, eye contact, gestures, tone of voice etc) when you are responding to behaviour, just in case your attention is reinforcing the throwing. Use a calm and monotone voice to give the child the feedback that throwing is not appropriate. It is useful to say his name first, so that he knows that you are talking to him e.g. "pupil's name, no throwing". This should be supported with a visual support (symbol) to support his understanding. 

*The child may not be aware of how they should be behaving (common for children with ASD) - when you do respond to the behaviour, remember to always include how the should be behaving as well.  For example, if the child is throwing a toy car, include in your response how to place with the toy appropriately, and remember to reward/reinforce this behaviour.  Any item that the child is throwing, teach them how to use it appropriately and reward him for doing this.

*Reward and praise the child when they are showing any appropriate behaviours (even rewarding when they are not throwing).  This way, you are giving the inappropriate behaviours no attention and redirecting them and the appropriate behaviours are getting lots of attention and reward. This should reinforce the appropriate behaviour and reduce the inappropriate behaviours.

*Setup lots of opportunities for these behaviours to be reinforced on a daily basis, so that the child has more exposure to positive outcome that the behaviour gives them (e.g. a reward/praise).

*Give the child lots of other opportunities to gain attention or control, in more appropriate situations, so that he is not having to show inappropriate behaviours to get this. Unfortunately, an inappropriate behaviour will continue (be reinforced) if the child is getting a positive outcome (more attention, control).

*Remember that sending him out of the classroom to a quieter/more preferred room after he has thrown something, could be reinforcing the throwing behaviour because it is effective in moving him from a less desired place (classroom) to a more desired place.

*If the child is throwing due to sensory needs, allow time in the day for the child to seek this sensation in a more appropriate way (pushing/pulling items outside, throwing other items in a controlled activity, throwing ball into a basket in a school field, running/physical exercise). 

*How you and others respond to his throwing behaviours may be a really important factor. What can sometimes be a difficult is if the child's behaviour is happening because they enjoy the response, the way that adults respond can sometimes inadvertently, be reinforcing the behaviour.   Often a teacher's extreme response can be giving them what they want, and therefore gives them a reason to do the behaviour again. It is useful to know that any attention, negative or positive, is still attention.

*Increase the structure of the activities/tasks that the child is doing.  If they are finding a particular thing hard, see if you can split this up into smaller chunks, and support his understanding with visual supports. 

For more information on behaviour, environment, sensory world of autism and visual supports, please see the following links:

*Behaviour: http://www.autism.org.uk/about/behaviour

*Environment and surroundings: http://www.autism.org.uk/18450

*Visual support: http://www.autism.org.uk/about/strategies/visual-supports.aspx

*Sensory world of autism: http://www.autism.org.uk/sensory

*Working with people with autism in education: http://www.autism.org.uk/Working-with/Education.aspx

I hope that helps!

NAS Helpline Team