Decreasing Problem Behaviors in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)


In the 1960s-70s, people often dealt with ASD-related problem behaviors by means of punishment. However, a shift occurred in the 1980s, when people started using data-based methods to treat behaviors; these new methods allowed them to respect the dignity of children with ASD, promote their capabilities, and expand their opportunities to reach meaningful outcomes.

What are some of the triggers for disruptive behaviors? Triggers can be grouped into two categories: social and biological.

Social triggers:

  • Requests to engage in non-preferred tasks
  • Demands made toward the child
  • Change of routines
  • Denied access to preferred items

Biological triggers:

  • Pain/illness
  • Medication

What motivates children to exhibit problem behaviors?

  • Attention seeking
  • Desired tangible items or activities
  • Escape or avoidance from non-preferred tasks


What should you do in a crisis situation?

  • Stay calm
  • Prioritize safety
  • Don’t worry about treatment during a crisis
  • Develop an intervention plan for crisis situations

Identify/teach replacement behaviors:

  • Identify appropriate positive behaviors to replace negative behaviors. This positive behavior must serve the same function as the negative behavior. Remember: most of the time, extinction bursts can occur, meaning that the behaviors may get worse before they get better.
  • Practice and reinforce the replacement behavior.
  • Start short with replacements: For example, rather than allowing the child to scream and cry (tangible- the child wants to go outside), practice having the child say “outside” and then allow him/her to go.

Incorporate interests to increase motivation:

  • Give the child options to choose from
  • Vary the tasks presented to the child
  • Intersperse easy and difficult tasks
  • Reward any attempts from the child

Develop meaningful activities:

  • Bus schedules
  • Catalogs when working on math problems
  • Scavenger hunts for reading
  • Cooking when teaching fractions
  • Incorporate other students’ names into the child’s homework problems. Search through the problems and replace names with the names of other students in the class.


  • Expose the child to academic materials or activities in advance. This will reduce avoidance and escape behaviors.


  • Use a visual schedule to make activities predictable (pictures or words)
  • If there is a change in routine, you can incorporate this into the schedule, so the child can have a clear visual of the change.


  • Give the child warnings about any upcoming transitions
  • Use a timer and give verbal warnings before the timer goes off

At Always Keep Progressing, we specialize in treating children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and managing problem behaviors.

For more information contact us at 845-321-5010.

Keep reading 

Related Articles 

Sensory Play

Sensory Play

Growing children rely on their senses from birth onward to explore and make sense of their surrounding world. Through sight, hearing, touching, tasting, smelling, and even moving, young children process the information obtained through their senses, which informs their development. By enriching infant’s and young children’s experiences with sensory play activities, families can support their little one’s brain development.

Growing Up With A Sister With Autism

Growing Up With A Sister With Autism

My sister is an artist, a dog mom, emotional, an over thinker, witty, smart, caring, and beautiful. My sister is not just a diagnosis, and no one with autism or any diagnosis should ever be labeled as just that because they bring so much more to the world. I wouldn’t be the person I am today, or the occupational therapist I am today, if it wasn’t for my sister. Through all the hard times, and all the obstacles, I wouldn’t want my sister any differently than who she is today. She was my perfect baby sister when she was born, and still is to this day.

Benefits of playground interactions/activities

Benefits of playground interactions/activities

Children learn best through play, and if it’s outdoor play, even better! I recommend going to your nearest playground at least once a week. With Covid-19, things are a little different now, but it’s still doable with some adjustments. Maybe go to the playground during times when you know it’s a little more empty than usual and pack some wipes and hand sanitizer!

Always Keep Progressing logo

Have your say 

Join the Conversation


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Pin It on Pinterest