Top 5 autism tips for professionals: behaviour support

Nadia Khan, Behaviour Coordinator at the National Autistic Society (NAS) Scotland, gives us her top five tips on positive behaviour support for autistic people.

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Author: Nadia Khan

Top 5 tips

Behaviour support

1. Medical check-up - the first thing to do when an individual is engaging in new or increased amounts of behaviours that challenge is to ensure there is no medical cause for this. This should be conducted by a medical professional. Common causes of behaviours that challenge due to pain or illness in people with a severe learning disability, ASD, and or communication difficulties are: toothache, headaches, and constipation.

2. Identify the function of behaviour - there is always a reason why behaviours that challenge occur. We should aim to understand what purpose the behaviour serves to the individual. What is the individual trying to communicate? What need is the individual meeting by engaging in the act? The four functions of behaviour are:

  • escape
  • social attention
  • tangible reinforcement
  • self-stimulatory

3. Developing new skills - we should support the individual to develop socially appropriate skills to meet their needs without needing to engage in behaviours that challenge. Increasing an individual’s skills in general also helps to promote independence, self-esteem, and builds confidence. 

4. Structure, routine, and consistency - it is important to have a structured routine both daily and weekly. This consistency should limit any anxiety caused by being unsure or unaware of what is happening. Routines help us to manage and understand our environment, and changes in these routines can lead to confusion and distress.

5. Support the individual’s communication - this may be through clinical support from a Speech and Language Therapist but may also be at home. Reward and encourage whatever means of socially appropriate communication the individual uses. Difficulties can arise for an individual when they are unable to communicate even basic needs and wishes. Remember that pointing, gestures, and eye movement are all forms of communication that should be supported and developed.

These top tips are meant only as a very general guide to what to think about. You can find more information on this subject below.

Further reading

National Autistic Society website

Date added: 16 February 2016