Preventative Tools for Children with Autism
Children with autism can sometimes experience behavior that is challenging for both the child and the parent. Behaviors can range from mild disruption to self-injury. Preventative tools, known as “antecedent strategies,” can be used before these behaviors occur to help prepare children with autism and those around them.
There are four main antecedent strategies: the Premack principle, priming, environmental arrangement and choice making. Using these strategies before a behavior occurs allows you to set the child up for success.
- Premack principle is a strategy that helps someone to understand in what order things are going to be done. The Premack principle is also referred to as the “first, then” rule. “First, we do __ then you get___.” This allows those with autism to not only understand what must be done first, but also reminds them what they get after the task is complete, whether that be free play time or ice cream (to name a couple of examples).
- Priming is preparing a child for upcoming activities; it can be done a couple of different ways. One way to use priming is using intervals of time to remind a child that an event or activity is approaching. For example, telling someone “art is in 10 minutes” and then again at five minutes and so on until the time of the activity. Another way to use priming is previewing an activity or event with a child to introduce it to them in smaller doses and work up to the actual event. An example of this may look like using a pretend doctor kit and introducing one step of a doctor’s visit at a time and working up to an entire pretend doctor visit before a real one.
- Environmental arrangement is simply arranging the environment to best suit a child with autism for their specific needs. If, for example, your child typically screams if there is art hung on the wall, then don’t take your child into a room with art on all the walls. If you know that a child will eat Play-Doh, make sure all Play-Doh is put away before bringing them into the room.
- Choice making is allowing a person to have the autonomy to make a decision. It allows the child to feel more in control of what’s going on in his or her life. When calling a person to come sit at a table to do a task they may not want to do, you can use choice making by asking them: “Do you want to sit in the big chair or small chair?” Or,“Do you want to sit in the chair or stand at the table?” and so on. This allows them to make a choice for themselves with something they want to do but still allows you to accomplish whatever task needs to be done. In doing this, you help prevent a behavior that may have occurred by not giving any options to choose from.
Using these antecedent strategies is not a guarantee that a behavior will not occur. However, it does allow for those with autism to be more prepared and feel more in control of what’s going on in their life, therefore, setting them up for success.
For more information and services related to children with autism, visit us at Ochsner.org/boh.