Texas Children's Hospital Autism Center and
Meyer Center for Developmental Pediatrics
Managing anxiety and stress in a time of crisis can seem overwhelming for parents as well as for kids. Remember that you are not alone and that our team here at The Autism Center and Meyer Center for Developmental Pediatrics are here to support you and answer any questions you may have.
DO: Take your time, don't rush, and let your family adjust to this new environment and expectations.
DON'T: Get overwhelmed. Try not to stress yourself out by feeling the need to duplicate the classroom or environment your child came from, because it isn't possible or necessary. Do the best you can, with what you have. Kids are resilient and will be just fine.
We have included below resources to help with stress and behavior management at home during this difficult time.
Children, particularly those with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD), utilize behavior as a form of communication. Often times the behaviors we see as problem behaviors are simply a failed attempt to communicate effectively. Children may be experiencing feelings they are not sure how to manage or express, they may be seeking attention, or avoiding non-preferred or hard activities.
Knowing WHY problem behaviors are occurring is the key to learning how to manage these behaviors. Parents can increase positive behaviors and decrease problematic behaviors by having appropriate expectations based on their child's developmental level and by using their communication and attention strategically.
Setting Up Your Child For Success At Home
1. Develop house rules for everyone in the home to follow
You should have no more than 4-5 simple house rules. Keep in mind your child's developmental level when making rules.
Rules should be posted in a common area for everyone to see and follow.
They should be positively stated. For example, rather than "no yelling," maybe say "we use inside voices."
2. Utilize visual schedules to maintain routine and consistency
3. Give your child appropriate control by utilizing Child Directed Play
CLICK HERE for detailed instructions on utilizing Child Directed Play at home.
Managing Problem Behaviors
Problem behavior can be one of the most challenging things to handle as a parent. When implementing the strategies mentioned below, parents should remember that consistency and clear expectations are essential for these strategies to be the most effective.
1. Catch your child doing something well
Praise your child often for positive behaviors and accomplishments, even those things that they regularly do well.
This shows your child that they will receive your attention when they do positive things and will not receive your attention when they engage in problem behaviors.
2. Give specific praise
Try no to use general praise like "awesome" or "great job." Praise your child by specifically telling them the behavior you would like repeated. For example "Roxana, I really love the way you picked up your toys the first time I asked."
3. Ignore problem behaviors that are non-aggressive
Many problem behaviors are behaviors that may be annoying to parents and are used to gain your attention. These behaviors may include interrupting, sticking out their tongue, arguing with you, saying a bad word, etc.
Ignoring these behaviors and giving your child NO attention when these behaviors occur, reinforces to your child that they will only receive your attention for positive behaviors.
4. Utilize time out effectively
CLICK HERE for instructions from Psychologist and Board Certified Behavior Analyst, Dr. Rachel Fein, on how to use time out effectively at home.
Utilizing Behavior Charts
Behavior charts can be very helpful to families in providing a visual way to track children’s behavior and show progress toward meeting behavior goals. Tracking behavior can help families look for patterns in behavior as well as the most effective behavior management strategies for their child.
Although behavior charts can look very different depending on the child’s developmental level, they have a few common characteristics:
The focus should be to track and reward positive behaviors.
Charts should include goals that are:
Can be measured or counted
Julia will spend 15 minutes reading every morning.
Brandon will put all his Legos in the bin after playing with them.
A chart should also include appropriate rewards (treats, special time, stickers, etc.) that motivate the child and that are easy for parents to provide.
3 happy faces = extra story at bedtime
12 stars during the week = family game night on Friday night