Self-injurious behavior in autistic children is quite common. However, as a parent or a guardian, it’s distressing to see a child acting violently or self-harming themself.
Several ABA therapy techniques can help ease or even stop self-harming behavior. All you need to do is find the best ABA therapy in Chicago center and discuss your needs one-to-one with a therapist.
But to kick-start this process, we have compiled this guide to help you get a clear idea of how you can treat self-harming behavior with the right ABA therapy approaches.
What Causes Self-Injurious Behavior in Autistic Children?
Before highlighting the treatment options, it is critical to understand what causes such behavior in children with ASD.
Lack of Communication Abilities
The lack of ability to communicate well often results in frustration. Because autistic children are not able to fully understand their caretaker’s or guardian’s instructions, they end up feeling disheartened and frustrated. This may lead to self-destructive behavior and then self-injury.
Some children bang their heads, bite, rub their hands, or scratch to show frustration and anger. This goes without saying that such toxic behavior is detrimental for the children and their parents and caretakers.
To Avoid or Escape an Uncomfortable Social Encounter
Sometimes children engage in self-harming behavior to avoid a person or a situation.
The child may start reacting before they are about to encounter a social event.
If you ask them to accompany you to any social event they don’t want to go to, they will react and use self-harming behavior to show their dissent.
Because you can’t enforce your decision on them, the entire situation may become too awkward and hard to handle for parents and caretakers.
The Result of the Child Wanting Attention
Self-injuring behavior can also be an outcome of attention-seeking behavior.
We have witnessed children engaging in self-harming activities when they see their parents or caretakers busy with different activities.
Dealing with such behaviors can be challenging for caretakers and therapists at times.
With a functional communication strategy, parents, as well as therapists, can treat children with ASD using alternative communication channels and positive reinforcements.
Treating Self-Injurious Behavior with Functional Communication Training in ABA Therapy
Functional communication is a strategy in ABA therapy that therapists employ as a part of a training program for ASD.
With this tactic, therapists help autistic children to replace self-harming behavior with a better means of communication.
The first step to using the functional communication training program is to analyze data. Therapists will collect and analyze data to determine those triggers that cause such challenging behavior in children.
After collecting and analyzing enough information, the therapist will propose an alternative communication method depending on the child’s individual needs and capabilities.
Here’s how a therapist can use a functional communication training program to treat the above-mentioned conditions.
Treating Frustration with Functional Communication
The therapist can teach a child several functional communication skills to reduce the frustration levels. For example, you can teach sign language or PECS to streamline the communication process.
Whatever alternative communication approach you’re using, make sure to stick with one method across all settings.
Treating Avoidance with Functional Communication
Let’s suppose you ask a child to do any specific activity. If they don’t want to do that thing at that time, they may start self-harming or engage in self-destructive behavior.
While the therapist should interfere immediately and block the behavior, they should continue to follow through with the activity so the child doesn’t assume the self-harming behavior gets them to quit their unwanted activity.
Treating Attention-Seeking Behavior with Functional Communication
Functional communication may also help with the child’s attention-seeking behavior.
In case of such a reaction, a therapist or a caretaker should always interfere and block the behavior.
For example, if they’re slapping or hand-rubbing, you may involve them in an activity that needs them to use their hands. Ask them to paint or draw, for instance.
What we discussed above is only a fraction of what you can do to stop or reduce self-harming behavior. In ABA and functional communication techniques, there are many ways you can obstruct the undesired behaviors while encouraging the appropriate ones.
These situations occur because a parent or a guardian fails to understand the root cause behind such behaviors. Work closely with a therapist and guide on all the triggers you believe cause such self-harming behavior in children, as only then can you make an actionable plan.