Why does that behaviour keep happening..?

Autism Plan Why does that behaviour keep happening blog

You may be finding it hard to work out why a certain behaviour keeps happening, or what your child is trying to communicate with you from their behaviour.

The first thing to remember is that a behaviour will carry on whilst it’s useful to that person (even if the reason is not apparent or clear to anyone else).

This technique I’m about to share I know, has helped literally thousands of parents work out what’s causing the behaviour…
The technique is to carry out your own, what’s known as functional behavioural analysis or assessment.   It’s the first thing that would be done by any Behaviour Expert if they were looking at managing a particular behaviour.

A function behavioural analysis is a collection of data or observations about the behaviour that you’re seeing.

A simpler way of explaining this is to keep a record or diary of the behaviour.  Tracking this information is a really effective way to find out what might be causing the behaviour and to identify possible triggers or patterns to the behaviour that you’re seeing.

Collecting information about when and where

A way that we do this is by collecting information about when and where the behaviour is taking place, who is there when it happens, what actually happens in terms of the behaviour, what happens before and immediately after the behaviour and any other environmental factors that might be useful.

A common example of a behaviour diary is something called an ABC Chart – the A meaning the antecedent of the behaviour, the B standing for the Behaviour itself, and the C meaning the consequences of the behaviour ie. what happens after the behaviour.  Additional information to this would be the date/time the behaviour happens, and what else is going on in the background.

An example of an ABC Chart in use

If I was keeping track of a behaviour at a school where a child was throwing objects, I would record the date and time it was happening:

A (the antecedent, what happens before) would be the child had been given a plastic cup of water at lunch time,

B (the behaviour itself) would be the child throwing the plastic cup on the floor

C (which is the consequence of the behaviour or what happens after) would be the learning assistant coming straight over to the child and prompting them to pick up the cup.

The other details I would record would be the environment:
eg. lunchtime
at school
25 other children in the hall, in quite a busy canteen, music on in the background.

I’d also mark down on the frequency chart the time and date that it happened.

Focus on one behaviour at a time

I recommend focusing on one behaviour at a time.  If there is more than one behaviour that you are concerned about, focus on the behaviour that is the biggest priority for your child or the most concerning for you.  Give it a go for at least two weeks, and try to be consistent with filling them in. If you don’t have time to write in lots of detail, don’t worry, just put down what you can, possibly in bullet points.   Writing something down is better than nothing.
After completing one or both charts for that time, you may be surprised at what you find. Patterns are likely to begin to emerge and, providing you’ve been consistent and filled in the forms, you’ll begin to get a picture of what might be causing the behaviour.

Real life example

I know a parent who used an ABC chart to record down a behaviour that they were concerned about at home.

Their child was screaming at different times of the week, when they were at home.  The screaming would sometimes happen in the evenings before dinner, and sometimes after dinner, and at any time when they were at home at the weekends.  They thought a lot about why their child was screaming, but had no idea of why it was happening.
Once they had started tracking the behaviour in a diary, including when it was happening and the environmental factors, they realised almost straight away that it was happening whenever their mum was playing the radio in the kitchen.  The child was clearly distressed with the sound and pitch of the radio station or songs playing. The radio being on to the rest of the family wasn’t even a consideration until it was recorded down on the behaviour diary.
So, if you have a behaviour in mind that you are concerned about, start to keep track of it straight away – you’ll be surprised with the patterns that pop out at you…

Do you need some more support on how to manage behaviour that challenges? Or how to get the best use of anABC diary?  
You can book a one-to-one support call with one of our autism consultants here: https://autismplan.co.uk/one-to-one-support/

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