Normally I ignore, well ok try to ignore, outbursts from the boy with autism that I work with. When he gets upset he will often yell, bang desks, bite or hit himself, or if I’m real lucky, hit someone else. They say, the proponents of Applied Behavior Analysis say, that if you ignore these bad behaviors and positively reinforce the good behaviors, that ignoring should extinguish the bad behaviors. Well so far it does work, except when he’s being really noisy it’s darn hard to ignore in the middle of a quiet classroom when the teacher expects you to do something.
So today we were working on reading, a very challenging task for my student, when he decided he didn’t want to do it anymore. He began by banging the desk, then making loud noises, then finally started making these strange, jutting movements with his arms and legs, muscles tight. His leg was lifted off the ground and flexed, he bent over the leg and “grrrrr!” I couldn’t help it, I totally cracked up. Not just a chuckle, but a full on belly laugh. And an amazing thing happened, he stopped, looked me right in the EYES, and started laughing, too. Ah ha, I knew it was an act!
Here’s to a new strategy to combat bad behaviors.