B is for Behavior
All behavior serves one of 4 functions:
To gain attention
To escape a situation
To gain access to something (usually tangible)
A response to an internal stimuli such as hunger, illness or exhaustion.
Seriously. Just 4 reasons anyone does anything. Think about it–you won’t come up with a 5th. I have tried.
Of course, if it were that simple we would all live in harmony. However, there are some times it gets tricky. For instance, when a behavior is triggered by something internal, it can be incredibly difficult to identify. So if a child with autism likes to clap his hands near his ears is it because he likes the sound? Or is it because he likes how his hands feel when he claps them together? Or is it because it creates a little wind near his face which he likes? To make matters even more complicated…a behavior can change function midstream and without warning. So that same kid who liked hearing the sound of his own clapping next to his ear and his parent rushes over to him and holds his hands and tells him “stop! Lets play instead”….her reaction may have just inadvertently changed the function of the child’s behavior from internal reasons to external. Perhaps it becomes a great way to get his parents’ attention now too. Such is the nature of human existence…including humans on the Autism Spectrum. It is easy to judge others without understanding when looking at their behaviors through our own lenses. So next time you see a child having a tantrum in public or seems out of control, bear in mind that the function of his behavior may not be attention like you might be used to from a bratty kid. He may be responding to sensory overload and needs to leave or perhaps if you hang out long enough you may come to find it may be screams of joy because he has no other way to express it.