Using Positive Behavior Behavior Supports, like this I have previously mentioned are often effective for preventing problem behaviors or strong emotional reactionjs from happening. By setting up an environment that is consistent with cogntive and senosry needs of the person with ASD, anxiety is lowered and reasons for engaging in problem behavior are lessened. Unfortuately, it is not possible to control every aspect of a person's environment. There will always be some instances where events to not go according to plan, results are unexpected, and there is not adeqaute preparation. In other words, life happens. Therefore, while Positive Behavior Support strategies are an important first step in helping someone with Autism grow and progress, it is by nio menas the only step. Once Postive Behavior Supports are established, the next important step in the behavior development process is developing coping skills.
In a broad sense, coping skills refer to the strategies we use to handle the situations that occur in our daily lives. Well developed coping skills allow us to handle the stress of the day and relieve enough of it to handle the stress of the following day. Coping can come in many forms inlcuding but not limited to:
Physical - Exercise, deep brerathing, yoga, massage
Emotional - Expressing feelings through words, music, or art
Social - Talking to friends & family, social activity, asking for or giving assitance
Mental - Meditation, Visual Imagery, Positive Thinking
Activity - Reading, gardening, listening to music
Inappropriate - Alcohol, other drugs, food, gambling, sexual activity
While most people naturally develop a personal set of coping strategies over time, many people with Autism do not think about developing coping strategies and use escape/avoidance as a primary coping method. When a difficult situastion arises, people who do not have well developed coping strategies try to escape or avoid the situation either through leaving the situation, ignoring it, or engaging in action that facilates escape. These strategies may provide temporary relief, but do not give the person the opportunity to handle the situation, thus curtailing growth and maturation. Fortunately, like many other behavior and social skills, coping skills can be taught. The next series of posts will focus on developing coping skills, starting with simple strategies and progressing to more complex activities. The next post will begin with establishing an evironment for coping then proceed with adaptations for developing the coping strategies listed above.
Steven C. altabet, Ph.D.