Impulsive Behavior: Some Children Need Extra Help When Helping Themselves to Everthing

Some children cannot help themselves, they sit at the table ready to participate in an activity and they are compelled to touch and grab all the materials that are prepared for the activity.  It does not matter what the materials are, they could be art materials, game pieces, writing materials, legos, color tannagram tiles, breakfast, lunch, or dinner, or anything at all.  They just can’t stop themselves.

This is a situation that requires the teaching of the “wait”  concept. Three things are needed…a fold your hands picture/word card, a wait picture/word card, and materials need to be kept out of arms reach of the child and provided or given to the child on an as needed basis.

Teaching a child to self-regulate their impulsive behavior takes patience, consistent redirection in a calm manner, and positive reinforcement when the child follows the directive or self-regulates his behavior. It is important to understand what is driving the impulsivity. Sometimes children are impulsive because they are excited or attracted to the materials themselves, some children just like to watch the facial expressions on the adult change, and some like to engage in a power struggle or tug of war.

Remember to front load the materials in a place out of reach from the child, pre-organize the components of the activity, and use the picture word card to redirect behavior. Remember most of the time the meaning and actions of the picture/word cards may need to be taught if especially the child has never been introduced to the concepts. In my experience, the majority of children with an ASD respond very well to the directive pictures when they have had prior use with them. The cards are non-threatening and remove you as the child’s emotional target for retaliation.

Consistency of the delivery of the expectations, positive and patient attitude, and immediate reinforcement of the desired behavior will create big pay offs for you and your child! Remember the reinforcement within the activity is intrinsic within the materials and offerings of the activity.

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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