Repetitive behavior (RB) is one of the key symptoms of autism, which often violates children’s academic and social activity. In the completed antecedent manipulation project, it was found that the child with autism experiences tantrums when he is asked to do a task in the classroom. The interviews with teachers and direction observation revealed that tantrums appear when his peers pay attention to him. To correct unwanted behaviors, it is important to use positive reinforcement through different learning strategies.
Considering that tantrums are unacceptable in school settings since they violate the learning process, the interventions should be mainly conducted in this environment. It was suggested to reinforce hand rising to attract attention or request the desired item. However, one may propose that this assumption should be supported by more than one strategy. According to Hansen and Wadsworth (2015), it is a common practice to interrupt the unwanted behavior and redirect the focus of a child to another action. To ensure that the negative stereotype would be eliminated, attention should be paid to new behaviors, with verbal and functional emphasis. The article by Hansen and Wadsworth (2015) is an empirical study that is based on a withdrawal design approach, which is aimed to assess antecedent intervention for eye-poking. It is valuable that the authors report that the strategy of environmental enrichment was useful for eliminating the identified behavior, which was evaluated in a 9-month period.
In case of tantrums, the creation of a friendlier atmosphere is likely to significantly help the child to learn new behaviors. Similar ideas are discussed by Wood, Kisinger, Brosh, Fisher, and Muharib (2018), who state that antecedent interventions allow for applying a preventative approach instead of using punishment. The authors claim that a student’s interests should be determined after the observation of challenging behaviors to address them effectively. Depending on a student, a particular antecedent intervention may provide more benefits compared to others. For example, those children who have problems with completing tasks should be given high-probability sequences, while precession attention would be useful for challenges with peer or teacher attention receiving. Most importantly, the environment should ensure strong communication between a student and peers/educators (Wood et al., 2018). A proper communicative should be offered in the case of tantrums, which should be easy to understand and learn and result in the desired consequences. Since the target student is nonverbal, the iPad or the Picture Exchange Communication System seems to be advantageous to aid in communication.
The application of functional communication training seems to be important for the child with tantrums due to its opportunity for non-vocal students to get exactly what they want. The model offered by Wood et al. (2018) includes several steps that consistently identify the intervention. Beginning with the identification of challenging behavior, the teacher is expected to choose the most relevant communication response. After that, the students should be taught to use the chosen communication response, where aided systems or sign language may be used. The immediate provision of reinforcement receives the learning effectiveness, and it should be withdrawn when the child engages in destructive behavior. Most importantly, Wood et al. (2018) state that every involved stakeholder, including teachers, paraprofessionals, and caregivers, should practice the withdrawal. This procedure is identified as differential reinforcement, and it can be used as a part of the behavioral intervention plan for reducing tantrums. Frequent data collection and the consistency of the intervention are the key issues to consider in terms of troubleshooting.
Another area that requires attention to improve positive behaviors and eliminate tantrums is the student’s home environment. In the article that is devoted to creating an autism-friendly home, Nagib and Williams (2017) point to the need to adjust it to handle physical, psychological, and social challenges. The greater involvement of parents increases the likelihood of adopting the replacing behaviors, as reported by the above authors. This area can be improved by collaborating with an occupational therapist and architects.
To conclude, it is suggested to manipulate the antecedent of tantrums in a classroom environment by adding differential reinforcement and functional communication training strategies. As a consequence, it is expected that the student would raise a hand or use vocal indicators to make the desired items or responses clear. The home environment should also be taken into account to engage the family and ensure that the interventions are consistent.
Hansen, B. D., & Wadsworth, J. P. (2015). Effects of an antecedent intervention on repetitive behaviors of a child with autism. Child & Family Behavior Therapy, 37(1), 51-62.
Nagib, W., & Williams, A. (2017). Toward an autism-friendly home environment. Housing Studies, 32(2), 140-167.
Wood, C. L., Kisinger, K. W., Brosh, C. R., Fisher, L. B., & Muharib, R. (2018). Stopping behavior before it starts: Antecedent interventions for challenging behavior. Teaching Exceptional Children, 50(6), 356-363.