As parents, our main priority is to keep our children safe. But what do we do when our children are the ones making themselves and others unsafe? There are many different diagnoses in children that are associated with aggressive behavior. While self-harm behavior and aggression toward others are sometimes associated with children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), these behaviors also occur as a result of a wide range of diagnoses.
One of the most effective treatments for children who display aggressive behavior toward themselves and others is Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy (ABA therapy). Because this therapy is individualized to the patient, the therapist is able to target the specific behavior you want to address. This technique is a highly effective tool for patients, and it is also a valuable way for their families to develop the understanding and skills needed to support their child, grandchild, sibling, or friend.
You may already be familiar with ABA therapy, but how much do you know about how the treatment works to target undesirable behavior? Below, we’ll walk you through some of the fundamental steps of the process. Remember that your therapist will design an approach with your child in mind; more specific details about the process would need to come from a therapist familiar with your child.
Name The Undesirable Behavior
The first step in this process is to identify the undesirable behavior in a way you and your child can comprehend. For example, when Johnny is frustrated, he hits himself and others. You’ll have difficulty addressing the problem unless you and your child can effectively identify it. Identifying the behavior in simple terms may also direct you toward an alternative, more appropriate behavior.
Determine How The Behavior Is Serving Your Child
We all do things because they serve some function in our lives. It may seem odd to imagine that your child’s aggressive behavior serves any purpose, but it does. It may be that your child is trying to gain attention or protect themselves in an environment where they feel anxious or unsafe. When you understand why your child behaves in a particular way, you can help them achieve their desired result more safely. For example, Johnny is frustrated and could use some one-on-one attention from a caregiver. When Johnny hits, suddenly, all attention is on him, so he has learned that when he needs attention, he can get it by showing aggression. It’s not ideal, but you can certainly see how he made that connection.
Identify A Better Way To Elicit The Desired Result
This next step will vary depending on how well your child can communicate. Through ABA Therapy, we may be able to teach them to explicitly say when they are feeling triggered. For example, Johnny might share that he’s feeling afraid and could use a hug or that he’s frustrated and would like to go outside for a while. The tactics used at this point of the process will vary between patients. In addition to reducing aggressive behavior toward self and others, this therapy can work to increase positive behaviors.
ABA therapy aims not to fit your child into a particular box or meet some external rubric of success. Rather, this treatment meets children and their families where they are and works to improve behaviors and help the patients and their families feel happier and more at ease. The ABA therapists at AcheiveAbility are highly-trained, compassionate professionals. They would love to help you navigate your child’s undesirable behaviors and help them get their needs met in a positive way. If you need support from a therapist, contact us today.