Does your child with autism act out frequently? Or perhaps, problematic behavior does not happen consistently, but when it does occur, it is severely out of control. It can be demanding and draining for autism parents to deal with the behavior exhibited by their children on the spectrum.
In ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy, ABA professionals have learned that all behavior serves a function. Therefore, it is critical to determine why your child behaves the way they do and find ways to support them through it. In many cases, environmental factors can be influenced, reducing problem behavior. While acting out cannot be entirely avoided by understanding your child’s patterns and triggers, you can significantly lessen it! Better behavior improves life for everyone!
This blog post about autism and the root causes of problem behavior will discuss the top 10 reasons why children with autism act out. We will additionally provide tips on how to deal with each situation and move forward.
Why Does Your Child with Autism Act Out? 10 Critical Reasons
1. They are trying to communicate with you.
Some children with autism act out because they are trying to communicate. These children may be trying to tell you that they are hungry, overwhelmed, seeking access to something, tired, or in pain. In many cases, neurodivergent children may be unable to express themselves verbally, and acting out is their way of communicating their needs.
For example, your child may have learned that if they cry at Target, you will quickly hand them a bag of potato chips. So instead of asking for the chips appropriately, they begin to cry. The behavior of crying is a method of accessing the chips. ABA professionals can pick up on these patterns and bring them to your attention. From there, the team will determine new ways to empower the child and modify the behavior.
If you think your child’s behavior may result from a communication issue, examine what your child is trying to share. Work with them and their providers to find alternative ways to express themselves that do not involve problem behaviors.
2. They are bored or frustrated, causing your child with autism to act out.
These children may need more stimulation than what they are receiving from their environment. Try providing them with specialized toys, games, or activities that interest them. Check out trusted blog sources for lists of great, cutting-edge autism toys and games. Ask their providers or teachers if there is anything they recommend or that your child has shown interest in. Be creative when selecting things to bring home. Read about features that might benefit children on the autism spectrum.
3. They feel overwhelmed or stressed.
Children with autism act out due to changes in their routines, new people, or unfamiliar places. Anything causing anxiety within their environment can become a source of stress for a child with autism. To address this, parents and caregivers should try to provide a soothing and supportive atmosphere for the child when stressed out.
Help the child identify when and why they feel overwhelmed, and give them some tools to deal with their experience. Try to offer various coping mechanisms like deep breathing, visualization, meditation, yoga, or a weighted blanket.
4. They feel like they’re not being heard or respected.
Not feeling heard is a common reason why children with autism act out. Feeling unheard is a familiar feeling for children on the autism spectrum. It can lead to frustration and problem behavior. If you feel like your child isn’t being heard, there are things you can do to help them feel more understood.
Try repeating what they say in your own words or asking questions to get more information. You may also want to consider therapy or counseling to help address the root of the problem. Feeling heard and respected is essential for all children, especially those with autism. Understanding and addressing this need can help these kids feel valued and supported.
5. Their routine may have been disrupted, and they struggle to adapt.
It’s important to remember that neurodivergent children often behave in ways that may seem disruptive or unusual because their routine has been disrupted. Children on the spectrum prefer sameness, and a minor change to their expectations can profoundly alter their behavior and coping ability.
This is one of the primary reasons why it’s so important to be understanding and patient when your child with autism is acting out. It’s also essential to provide as much support and structure as possible to help them cope with change. Sticking to a routine can help alleviate a lot of discomforts. In the event of an unavoidable change, ensure you set expectations about what’s to come and prepare them.
6. Their environment is too stimulating or chaotic.
In some cases, children with autism act out due to an overwhelming or stimulating environment. They may be experiencing sensory overload from the lights, sounds, and smells, to name a few sensory experiences. Autism Spectrum Disorder can make it hard for people to process and filter out information, so too much noise or activity can be overwhelming. This can lead to behaviors like stimming (self-stimulatory behavior) or meltdowns (outbursts characterized by crying, yelling, and/or aggression).
You can do a few things to create a calmer environment for your child. First, reduce the noise in the area by turning off the television and other electronics when they’re not needed. You might also want to create a visual schedule for your child, so they know what’s coming up next and can prepare for transitions. Finally, make sure you’re providing plenty of opportunities for sensory breaks throughout the day, such as deep pressure massage, essential oils, or calming music.
7. They aren’t getting the support they need.
Sometimes children with autism act out because they’re not getting the support they need from adults in their life. Autism behaviors can be challenging for caregivers and teachers to manage. Sometimes children with autism don’t receive the attention they deserve and require to thrive, resulting in problem behavior.
Talk to their caregivers or teachers about your concerns if your child isn’t getting the support they need. It’s also essential to provide them with support and care at home. Make home a safe place for your child to retreat to.
Finally, seek out resources and support groups for families living with autism. With the proper support, your child can reach their full potential. Talk to your child’s doctor or school psychologist to find the needed resources if you have trouble.
8. A medical condition is causing their behavior problems.
In some children with autism, difficult behaviors can result from an underlying medical condition. For example, gastrointestinal problems are common in autism and can cause pain and discomfort, leading to outbursts. Some children on the spectrum suffer from anxiety or mood dysregulation that needs to be addressed by a mental health professional.
If your child with autism is acting out, it might be helpful to discuss your experiences with a doctor to ensure there aren’t any potential medical causes. By treating the underlying condition, you may be able to reduce autism behaviors.
9. They feel like they can’t control their own lives.
Parents of neurodivergent children may notice that their child engages in specific behaviors that could be considered acting out. However, it’s essential to understand that these behaviors often respond to feeling like they have no control over their own lives. Children with autism act out because they feel like they are constantly being told what to do and when to do it. Neurodivergent children may feel like they can’t express themselves freely. As a result, children with autism act out to gain some sense of control. While it can be challenging to see your child behaving this way, it’s important to remember that it is often a coping mechanism.
10. They feel like they don’t fit in with other kids.
Many children with autism act out because they feel like they don’t fit in with other kids. They may have difficulty making friends or feel isolated at school. As a result, they may act out to get attention or to express their dissatisfaction. While monitoring your child’s autism behaviors is essential, it’s also important to understand their motivation and offer emotional support when needed. With patience and unconditional love, you can help your child navigate the challenges of autism and find ways to cope healthily.
ABA Therapy Addresses the Reasons for Acting Out
Even though it can be difficult, it is essential to remember that your child is behaving in a way that serves a purpose for them. When you take the time to understand why they are engaging in problem behavior, you can start to develop interventions and strategies to help them through it. Keep this information in mind as you work on supporting your child with autism.
The core principle of ABA therapy is that every behavior has a reason. ABA therapy is about finding the underlying reasons for behavior and teaching alternate ways of expressing needs or communicating. For more information about your behavioral treatment options and how ABA Centers of America can help your child reduce their problem behavior, call us at (844) 923-4222 or visit us at abacenters.com.