Curses foiled again! What is the cursing all about?

Carla curses and cusses using long rap like repetitive sentences. The volume of her voice becomes louder as the seconds tick on. When we ask her to stop or tell her to be quiet she cries and grumbles and keeps on talking in a long string of indistinguishable words with a few curse words thrown in. Sometimes we can make out the lines from a violent movie.

Carla is exhibiting delayed echolalia, the repetition of words an echo like behavior. There can be many reasons why she does this: 1) it may be auditory responsivity,a sensory sensitivity, an attempt to control undesired auditory input into her processing system 2) she may like to see the change in facial expressions as people respond to her 3) she may be protesting a demand being placed on her like a request to complete her work she may or may not like or understand 4) she may want your attention  5) she may really enjoy th rythym of the words as the come out of her mouth. 6) It may be deferred or latent echolalic behavior.

Several questions I ask myself: Does Carla understand the content she is talking about? What is she getting from the behavior? How am I responding to it – Am I inadvertently  encouraging or reinforcing the behavior through my response to it?  Because, I am not Carla, I cannot get inside her mind to experience what she is experiencing. You as the parent, caregiver, or primary staff may know Carla’s behaviors and preferences very well and may be able to form a hypothesis or conclusions through observations.

Pull out the ABC chart (insert link). When is the behavior occurring, how long does it last, what does the behavior look like, what is the consequence and in speaking of consequence I am referring to your immediate response to Carla’s behavior, not a punitive action, and what comes next.

Some suggestions for developing a replacement behavior. Ignoring the cursive talk will decrease the amount of emphasis placed on the use of the words themselves –in other words decrease the attention to the undesired stimulus and increase the attention to desired stimulus – develop and direct Carlas attention using cues that can change her behavior. Decide “good” words you would like her to say using the same cadence she uses when she says bad words. Provide immediate positive reinforcement when she uses one good word, and gradually build up to two words, three words, and so on.  The reinforcement may need to be something tangible depending on “what” may be motivating for Carla. 

Finding immediate solutions is often difficult. The behavior described requires a new “teaching piece be put in place”. In developing the teaching piece it is important to look at the aforementioned considerations…what is driving the behavior and what is the child getting from it.  Remember it takes a 10000 repitions to learn something new… don’t give up on one attempt! More later!

About Mary

Hi! I have been providing services for children and young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders, ages 3 through age 27, for twenty years. I also teach teachers and other professionals strategies and interventions to improve and develop communication skills, social understanding skills, and replacement of stereotypical behaviors. I try to create an awareness and empathic response with professionals working with families and caregivers living with the unique differences and challenges of ASD. My other goals include educating the public about ASD. ASD is a label that provides a common ground for discussing treatment, strategies, and other interventions to help the child or person. The label is not the child and vice-versa. Over the years I have observed many children develop communication skills, experience social success, and decrease and change stereotypical behavior into productivity. The children I work with are unique and wonderous. Like you and I they have specific interests and strengths that are valuable assets to their Quality of Life.
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