Behavior Support Strategies at Home

Behavior Advice for Parents and Caregivers

Dear Nantucket Families and Community members,

Unexpected changes in plans and routines can be challenging for families and children with special needs. Kids of all ages (including us adults!) often thrive on schedules and predictability, but given the current situation we are facing and with information evolving daily, it may be difficult to maintain a consistent schedule. With disruptions in routine, there may be an increase in behavior. To support you and alleviate some of the stress and burden your families may be experiencing right now, I have provided some strategies and tips to help manage behavior challenges in the home setting.

Stay safe and healthy!

Laura Stanley, MS, BCBA, LABA

Board Certified Behavior Analyst

Nantucket Public Schools

Schools out!

Strategies for Summer Break Planning

Summer is just around the corner and that means more time with friends and family, and a break from the normal school routine. However, for children on the autism spectrum and with other developmental disabilities, maintaining a routine is important to set them up for success. Below are several tips and strategies to help manage routines and establish expectations, while still having a fun, relaxed summer!

  • Maintain a regular schedule. Keep mealtimes and bedtime routines close to the same time each day if possible. These routines should be as familiar as possible for your child. Review new activities and events that may be out of the regular routine with your child in advance so they are prepared and know what to expect (*See more information on how to establish a routine below).
  • Plan for consistent structure throughout the day. Depending on your child's need, use visual schedules and review what the plans are for that day. This is a great time to build in review of skills that they have learned throughout the school year including social skills. Make sure there is scheduled time for play and rest.
  • You may need a schedule for the day, week etc. Use visuals of the activities that are planned and review with your child so they are aware of the expectations.
  • Use everyday activities such as shopping or chores into learning opportunities. These are great ways to practice learned skills and to teach new ones.
  • Reinforce positive behaviors for following home and community expectations.
  • Get outside! There are so many opportunities for incidental learning to happen while taking a walk/hike, trip to the beach. For example, "Eye Spy", Scavenger hunts etc.
  • Limit screen time and avoid at least 30 minutes before bed.

Establish a Routine

  • Create a schedule that fits to assist with daily routines and tasks.

  • Visual supports (either written or with pictures) can assist with transitions and prepare kids for what is coming next. If using visuals, make sure your child knows what the visuals mean. In order to maintain motivation (especially during academic or non-preferred tasks), it will be helpful to have built-in breaks as part of the schedule. A break may include coloring/drawing, puzzles, play-dough, reading, movement breaks, etc. If using electronics as a break make sure your child can easily come off the electronic and return to the academics/non-preferred tasks. If not, it is suggested that electronics be used as a reward for completion of all academic/non-preferred tasks.

    • Shorten tasks/demands

      • Some kids may benefit from “mini-schedules”. This may include breaking larger tasks or assignments into smaller, more manageable parts. For example, completing 5 problems of a worksheet instead of 10, or reading 1 page of a book then having a break.

    • Be Flexible When You Can

      • If your child is able to, have them involved with making a schedule. Identify what you both need or would like to get done that day.

    Preventing and Managing Behavior

    • Use Clear, Simple, Specific, and Consistent language for expected behaviors across the day. “First Reading, then play time.” This can include verbal praise (e.g. I know this task is difficult for you, but you are doing a great job trying your best! Great job putting your toys away!) as well as gestures including a thumbs up, wink, high five, pat on the back, etc.

    • Provide Choice (within reason) : Offer choices that are available. Select choices that are going to get your child to follow through with your expectations but allow them to be part of the decision making. Given your child choices can allow him or her to feel powerful and still “in control” and can sometimes defuse, non-compliant and defiant behavior.

    • Expectations within the home setting:

      • Set very clear expectations/rules with your child. Let him or her know what the expectation is before the onset of academic work, electronics (Set time limit), reading (time limit) etc. Use a timer for end open-ended activities (iPad, computer, watching TV, video games, reading etc.)

      • Behavior Expectations: Very clearly state what the expectations are for your child in the home setting. Examples may be quiet voices, no jumping on furniture, running in the house, sharing with family members, keeping a safe body and keeping hands and feet to one self. If needed, visuals can also serve as great visual aid for reminders of expectations.

    • Accepting No: When you tell your child no-it means no! If he or she starts crying or wanting to discuss it with you further, state “ I am all done talking about___” and then do not engage in conversation and avoid arguing back and forth. When they are calm and demonstrate compliance, provide positive feedback and reinforcement for listening and following directions.

    • Trying to go to the other parent when denied access or told no-Parents should spend some time together discussing the different situations that have happened. Set expectations and limits together before an issue comes up. Have “Family Rules” that way everyone has the same expectations. Consistency with both parents and all caregivers is so important. If need be, go into another room and discuss the situation without the child present – be a team!

    • Behavior Momentum: This is a useful strategy when a child is having difficulty getting started with a task or finishing a task. This can be done by asking the child to complete 2-3 known or very easy skills before redirecting them back to the original demand or difficult task.

    • For the younger learners, it may involve asking them to verbally answer questions about color of their shirt, their age, what their sibling name is, or label items close by (book, stuffed animal etc.) then re-presenting the original demand as you have gained some momentum.

      • For children who are non-vocal, you may have them point or touch to identify a known item before re-presenting the original demand. (E.g. Touch your head, touch your nose, point to the __.”)

    • For older children and teens, it may be having them complete the easy part of the task before completing the more difficult parts such as doing some basic math addition before completing a word problem.

    • Allow a “Cool Down” break or “Quiet Space” : Identify an area in the home where your child can take a break or go calm down when needed to. The area should be quiet, free of distraction, without access to preferred items or items that could be harmful, away from doors, or windows. You may include sensory items such as calm music, beanbags, stuffed animals, etc. Review with your child when they are calm, that you can discuss the situation with them afterwards.

    Positive Reinforcement Strategies

    • Positive Incentive Programs: Token board, sticker chart, or checklists are some examples to reinforce appropriate and expected behaviors ( ex. 30 minutes of academic work, 10 minutes of playtime or access to electronics). Make sure that the reinforcer/reward is highly preferred and easily accessible to earn. If using a token system, make sure they are delivered frequently (e.g. 5-10 minutes) for display of appropriate behavior (earning a reward every 20-30 minutes).

    • Differential Reinforcement: Provide frequent, positive behavior-specific attention (thumbs, praise, high fives, etc) for when your child is displaying appropriate pro-social behaviors (on task, following directions, being a helper etc) and limited attention for when he or she does not (minimize eye contact, verbal interactions, etc). “Catch him/her being good.” For every instance that your child is corrected on his or her behavior, follow up with 4 positive responses for appropriate display of behavior (4:1 ratio).

    • Avoid saying what you do not want your child to do (e.g. Don’t do that, don’t touch) but rather say what you want him or her to do ( e.g. Keep your hands on your own body)

    Functions of Behavior (Behaviorbabe)

    Helpful Links and Resources for Families

    There have been a lot of great resources and tools that have been shared in the past couple weeks. I know your child’s educators have been providing you with many of these and I have provided some below. If you are looking for an example of a specific schedule, visual, or strategy, please let me know and I will do my very best to help you with it! Social story for getting the vaccine Tips and strategies to help your child tolerate wearing a mask - Great resource for families providing up to date information on how to address COVID-19 with their children with autism Dr. Jillian Bennett does a lot of work with families and children with ASD, ADHD/Anxiety, and trauma. She has a Facebook page where you can access many amazing resources! Providing Free webinars on how to cope and provide emotional support to the autism population during school closures - School Closure Kit provided by EasterSeals. Resources and visuals including examples of schedules and social stories (about COVID-19)

    Suggestions of different learning and education apps.

    More tips and strategies to navigate new routines and transitioning to learning at home including management behavior. - Choice Works is a great application to create visual schedules and help with transition and routines. The app provides visuals of activities you can use, or you can use your own.

    Video modeling/Social Stories for washing Hands

    Cincinnati Hospital How Germs Spread Video

    Daniel Tiger Handwashing Video, "Germs Germs Go Away"

    Curious George How Germs Spread Video

    Sesame Street Sneezing Video, "The Right Way to Sneeze"

    Handwashing Video Model

    Additional Materials

    Meet the BCBA

    My name is Laura Stanley and I am the district Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) for Nantucket Public Schools. This is my second year working for Nantucket Public Schools and I am very excited to continue my work supporting students, teachers and staff, and families in my role as a BCBA. I have been in the field of applied behavior analysis (ABA) for over 10 years, and before coming to Nantucket, have worked in other public school and collaborative settings, as well as in clinics, residential, and private home-based therapy. My work includes providing services to children with autism, developmental and social emotional disabilities, and other behavioral disorders. My job as the BCBA for NPS is to primarily consult and support the district IDSC and OPTIONS programs as well other students who may have behavioral challenges preventing them from accessing the curriculum. I work with teams and families to develop individualized behavior intervention programming and strategies that will best help students be successful in the schools, community, and home settings. I love what I do as a Behavior Analyst and seeing progress our students make behaviorally, emotionally, and academically each day!