Tineke Sibbel

Board-Certified Behaviour Analyst and Clinical Director at Happy Oak Behavioural Consulting

M.Ed (Early Childhood Education), BCBA

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Catch the Good! A Different Approach to Managing Autism Behaviour

By Tineke Sibbel

Posted  June 14 2017 | 0 Shares

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Lots of parents and teachers ask me for “quick tips” with regard to a child diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in their family or class. The short answer, I’m afraid to say is, “It’s complicated.” In other words, there aren’t really any quick tips.

Not so helpful in the short term, right? I wholeheartedly agree. I’ve been wondering to myself, what could I say when I get asked this? If I had one wish to put out into the broader community, to teachers, parents, and adults who work with kids on the autism spectrum, what would it be?

I’ve thought about it — and I’m pretty sure that if everyone applied it, they would find their kids easier to manage, life would run more smoothly, and families and teachers would be happier. So, what is this magical advice? It’s to “catch” them being good!

We have such a tunnel focus on improvement, on “fixing” behavioural problems, on “dealing” with challenging behaviours, on “consequences” for bad behaviour, that we forget to stop, look, and enjoy the good things! We don’t notice when kids are doing the right thing. The best part is that when we take the time to stop and look, we realise they actually do the right thing a lot.

The “caught being good” game is good for everyone. It will help you whole class and your whole house. For one, it helps us to be grateful, and present in the moment. It reminds us of all the good things that the kids around us do.

If you’re currently in this mindset, it’s not the easiest thing in the world to do. Yes, it takes some time. Yes, we need to be switched on and thinking and looking. It’s true: It can be exhausting. Let me tell you, however, that if you commit, it will be worth every last drop of energy you have.

If the warm fuzzies don’t do it for you, then be selfish and do it for the wrong reason! What do you want your child to do more of? Sit nicely on the mat? Stay at the table until the family is finished with dinner? Clean their room? Do their homework?

Then catch them sitting nicely. Praise them. Be specific. “I love how you’re sitting at the table nicely.” “It’s so great how you got your homework out by yourself.”

Why does it work? Well, I don’t want to get all scientific on you. I realise not everyone is as fanatical as I am about the science of human behaviour.

To give you a little insight, though: Know that if there is a good behaviour, one that you like, if you want to increase it, you need to think about that “thing” that happens immediately after that behaviour. If that “thing” (your words, a treat, access to something fun) is rewarding for the child, then science says that it will increase how often that behaviour will happen in the future.

If your reward does not have this effect, then I hate to break it to you, but it’s not a reward. Not for your child, anyway. From my experience as a behaviour analyst, 99 kids out of 100, whether they have a diagnosis of autism, ADHD, or are typically developing, love it when they get praise from the adults around them, especially their teachers and parents.

So, here’s your homework: Walk away from this and pick one thing your child does that you want to see more of. Praise it all week. Be aware and alert to “catch” them. Please tell me how it goes — I can’t wait to hear.

Read: How diet intervention helped my child’s autism recovery

Reviewed by Tineke Sibbel 14 June 2017 references
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This document has been developed and peer reviewed by a KIDS HEALTH Advisory Board Representative and is based on expert opinion and the available published literature at the time of review. Information contained in this document is not intended to replace medical advice and any questions regarding a medical diagnosis or treatment should be directed to a medical practitioner.

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Catch the Good! A Different Approach to Managing Autism Behaviour

By Tineke Sibbel

Lots of parents and teachers ask me for “quick tips” with regard to a child diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in their family or class. The short answer, I’m afraid to say is, “It’s complicated.” In other words, there aren’t really any quick tips.

Not so helpful in the short term, right? I wholeheartedly agree. I’ve been wondering to myself, what could I say when I get asked this? If I had one wish to put out into the broader community, to teachers, parents, and adults who work with kids on the autism spectrum, what would it be?

I’ve thought about it — and I’m pretty sure that if everyone applied it, they would find their kids easier to manage, life would run more smoothly, and families and teachers would be happier. So, what is this magical advice? It’s to “catch” them being good!

We have such a tunnel focus on improvement, on “fixing” behavioural problems, on “dealing” with challenging behaviours, on “consequences” for bad behaviour, that we forget to stop, look, and enjoy the good things! We don’t notice when kids are doing the right thing. The best part is that when we take the time to stop and look, we realise they actually do the right thing a lot.

The “caught being good” game is good for everyone. It will help you whole class and your whole house. For one, it helps us to be grateful, and present in the moment. It reminds us of all the good things that the kids around us do.

If you’re currently in this mindset, it’s not the easiest thing in the world to do. Yes, it takes some time. Yes, we need to be switched on and thinking and looking. It’s true: It can be exhausting. Let me tell you, however, that if you commit, it will be worth every last drop of energy you have.

If the warm fuzzies don’t do it for you, then be selfish and do it for the wrong reason! What do you want your child to do more of? Sit nicely on the mat? Stay at the table until the family is finished with dinner? Clean their room? Do their homework?

Then catch them sitting nicely. Praise them. Be specific. “I love how you’re sitting at the table nicely.” “It’s so great how you got your homework out by yourself.”

Why does it work? Well, I don’t want to get all scientific on you. I realise not everyone is as fanatical as I am about the science of human behaviour.

To give you a little insight, though: Know that if there is a good behaviour, one that you like, if you want to increase it, you need to think about that “thing” that happens immediately after that behaviour. If that “thing” (your words, a treat, access to something fun) is rewarding for the child, then science says that it will increase how often that behaviour will happen in the future.

If your reward does not have this effect, then I hate to break it to you, but it’s not a reward. Not for your child, anyway. From my experience as a behaviour analyst, 99 kids out of 100, whether they have a diagnosis of autism, ADHD, or are typically developing, love it when they get praise from the adults around them, especially their teachers and parents.

So, here’s your homework: Walk away from this and pick one thing your child does that you want to see more of. Praise it all week. Be aware and alert to “catch” them. Please tell me how it goes — I can’t wait to hear.

Read: How diet intervention helped my child’s autism recovery

Reviewed by Lisa Kelly 14 June 2017
references
  • current version

  • PEER REVIEWER

  • Doc id

  • next review

This document has been developed and peer reviewed by a KIDS HEALTH Advisory Board Representative and is based on expert opinion and the available published literature at the time of review. Information contained in this document is not intended to replace medical advice and any questions regarding a medical diagnosis or treatment should be directed to a medical practitioner.

make a comment

0 comments

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MEET THE EXPERTS

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