The complications an autistic teen faces sometimes lead to certain incomprehensible behaviors. Autistic teens encounter great difficulty in expressing their emotions and needs. It’s natural for autistic children to act out in frustration, exhibiting what is typically termed as “challenging behavior.” These behaviors are often a result of various conditions associated with autism.
The Dilemma Of Challenging Behavior In Teens
Challenging behaviors signify some of the most distressing aspects of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). These behaviors cause harm or damage to the teens and people around them, but it also increases the emotional exhaustion and suffering of the caregivers. Challenging behaviors in an autistic teen typically include the following characteristics:
- Ignoring requests
- Physically hurting themselves or others around them
- Speaking or behaving aggressively
- Improper social conduct (e.g., taking clothes off in public)
- Staying in isolation
An autistic person can display challenging behaviors throughout their lifespan. The core symptoms of autism adjust over time, but as kids grow, challenging behaviors can reach critical levels. At times, an autistic teen’s response to various issues becomes daunting for parents and caregivers.
Who Can Help?
A therapy or an applied behavior analysis that focuses on improving specific behaviors of people with psychological and mental disorders has proved to be extremely effective for autistic children and teens. Studies have shown that consistent Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) can significantly improve challenging behaviors in autistic teens and adults. Some of the most successful strategies ABA uses are:
- Positive reinforcement to instill desired behaviors
- Create a connection between behavior and consequences
- Works on personalized plans to set individual goals
- Decrease core symptoms of ASD and associated disorders like ADHD, OCD, phobias, anxiety, and anger
- Augments social, intellectual, and communication abilities
The surge in autism cases around the world, particularly in the US, calls for urgent measures to equip people with the right skills to improve the social, cognitive, and behavioral abilities of autistic teens and decrease the probability of challenging behaviors. These skills can be acquired via a course or degree in ABA. Those interested in becoming ABA therapists can enroll in a master of ABA online program that offers flexible hours and a chance to implement these new skills in practice.
Why Is Autism Associated With Challenging Behaviors?
Autism itself does not cause challenging behaviors. The core spectrum of autism includes areas like communication, inability to comprehend, monotonous routines, disrupted sleep, and overwhelming situations. The troubles an autistic teen faces in these areas lead to frustration, anxiety, confusion, and aggressiveness, resulting in behavioral responses. Sometimes, an autistic teen uses these behaviors deliberately to communicate frustration to caregivers, but these behaviors are reflexive in most cases.
Typically, an autistic teen displays challenging behavior due to medical or mental health concerns or sensory responses to discomfort or pain.
Impact Of Challenging Behavior
There are many ways in which challenging behaviors can impact an individual. Autistic teens with challenging behavior can:
- Cause self-injury and physical pain due to aggression
- Limit themselves from new experiences and opportunities
- Limit academic learning and development
- Damage social relationships and isolate themselves due to social anxiety
- Increase dependency
Dealing With Challenging Behavior Of An Autistic Teen
The basic strategy of sensing a problem and adjusting the situation is not very helpful for challenging behaviors. Sometimes, an ongoing challenging behavior is triggered by health issues affecting a person’s ability to cope with everyday routines. However, a frequent display of challenging behaviors necessitates urgent intervention. Following are some effective ways to deal with the challenging behavior of your autistic teen:
Discourage Undesired Behaviors
Dealing with challenging behaviors can be extremely nerve-wracking, but you need to stay consistent to discourage these behaviors. You can discourage an unwanted behavior by:
- Ignoring attention-seeking behaviors.
- Making them aware of others’ feelings and how their behavior may hurt others.
- Offering them choices to allow your child to make decisions and make them aware of the outcomes of their choices.
No matter the age of an autistic person, positive reinforcement always works wonders. A positive approach to encourage certain behaviors is through rewarding. Never draw your child’s attention toward a negative behavior. Instead, you can focus on the positive aspects of your autistic teen’s behaviors.
Always be a role model for your teenager because they pick up social and moral clues from others, particularly from those they spend their most time with. You can respond to challenging behavior in a cool and calm way to teach them how to respond to unwanted behaviors.
Never Try to Physically Discipline Your Teen
Physical discipline may stop a child from unwanted behavior, but it never encourages positive behavior. Rather it sets a bad example for them. Physical discipline may also result in increased negative behavior, aggression, and social anxiety.
Build A Positive Relationship
Spend more time with your child doing activities that interest both of you. Add more humor to your conversation. Always encourage good behaviors, and praise them for every positive act, big or small. Play interactive games together and try to engage them as much as possible. Make them feel more comfortable being around you without increasing their dependency.
Be A Good Listener
To encourage your autistic teen to communicate verbally, you need to be an active listener. Challenging behaviors become more frequent when individuals cannot verbally communicate their feelings. Try to encourage them to speak. Ask intriguing questions that may interest them. Make sure you respond to them positively and without judging them. This will increase their sense of security and reassurance.
Communicate Consequences To Certain Behaviors
Establish consequences of certain behaviors and abide by them. Your teen must be made aware of the outcomes of unwanted behaviors.
Coordinate With School Or College For Feedback
Autistic individuals tend to be more aggressive towards their families instead of outsiders. It’s always necessary to keep track of your teen’s progress on challenging behavior in school or college to assess their social interactions and stay informed.
Seek Professional Help
Early intervention is the only solution to discourage challenging behaviors and foster positivity in your child. An ABA specialist or therapist will gather basic information about your autistic teen to know exactly which situation or people may be triggering a challenging behavior.
Medical interventions are needed for individuals who display risky challenging behaviors frequently and aggressively. Medications help in soothing symptoms associated with challenging behaviors. Consequently, these medications improve focus and deflate sensory responses.
Having an autistic teen with challenging behaviors can be stressful and daunting. Without proper measures and intervention, challenging behaviors can aggravate and become life-threatening to individuals and the people around them. Timely intervention can help decrease aggression and lower anxiety, resulting in improved behaviors in autistic teens.