Thursday, March 29, 2007

Maladaptive Behaviors in the Classroom

I will try to share here What is Maladaptive Behavior and its Types and how it is manifested with some of my students present and past.

Regardless of the cause(s) of autism spectrum disorder, its behavioral symptoms have many common components, which all interfere with effective learning.

Five main types of maladaptive behavior performed by those with autism spectrum disorder are stereotypical, ritualistic, self-injurious, tantrum, and aggressive behaviors.

Stereotypical behavior, is defined as repetitive movement of the body or objects , and can involve any of the sensory pathways. Examples of stereotypical behavior are hand flapping, tapping ears, scratching, rocking, mouthing, sniffing, and other such behaviors.

Stereotypical behavior stimulates the senses while causing feelings of internal pleasure, due to a simultaneous release of beta-endorphins in the brain. It serves to calm the individual, but focuses his or her attention inwardly and away from attention to learning.

Student E does hand movements( like that of "Incy Wincy Spider" hand movement when singing the song),tongue rolling,feet shaking one after the other when he listens to the teachers.Specially during Math Subject,when I first came in.I taught him to sit on his hands to avoid the hand movement and it makes him focus on listening.When it doesnt help I ask him if he wants "time out".When he says "yes" I bring him to an adjacent room until he calms down.I tell him "tell me when you are ready to go back and join your classmates".

After some time when I see him starting to get restless,I pull him out before he starts the behavior.bring him to another room and he tells me when he wants to go back to join the whole class.But during this time I do not allow him to do anything but sit and relax until he is ready to go back to classroom.When I first came in I when he is not ready to join the class which is most of the day,he would get a book to read while in another room.He would of course get a book of his choice.This did not help even a bit.It encouraged him to go on with the behaviors because he would be able to choose a book and read it.No need to work.This is what we call stereotypical behavior.

To stop this I gave him a choice on listening to the teacher and no hand movements or unnecessary noise or movement or go to the other room and calm down.Later on he would choose to stay with the rest of the group and avoid going to the other room.

Ritualistic behavior is an attempt to regulate something concrete and controllable because the person cannot identify and control some real psychological problem...way of subduing ideas or feelings that seem too hideous to be accepted...symbolically removing something that is experienced as a dire threat.

Essentially, it is an "act of terror".It interrupts life with compulsions to act in maladaptive ways, and creates feelings of helplessness and anxiety. Compulsions may be caused by a lack of serotonin in the brain. People engaging in ritualistic behavior show indifference to others’ needs, going to great lengths to perform rituals in a maladaptive attempt to control both their environment and the actions of others within it.

Self-injurious behavior is "any behavior that can cause tissue damage, such as bruises, redness, and open wounds", for example, head banging, self biting, or hand scratching or "any behavior that results in physical injury to a child’s own body".Causational theories include the seeking of internal pleasure and release of beta-endorphins as also seen in stereotypical behavior, sub-clinical seizures, middle ear infections, or hypersensitivity to sound.

Based on my experience I have observed,that children with Autism who are not "Accepted" by the families,most have this self-injurious behaviors.One of them,I will call him "D" used to put his arms outside the jalousy window of the school when I was not looking then he would bang the window to hurt himself.His arms have calousies all over on both right and left arms,signs of former injuries he sustained.He would also bite himself until there was blood.This student has no father figure.He is not recognized by the father.He is brought up by the working mom and grandparents.

Adnan would also bang his head on the wall,and scratch himself.He is rejected by the mom herself.Its the father who loves him a lot.His mom is not at all bothered when people tell her she favors daughter over Adnan and would let him cry his heart out and not be bothered by it when she buys something for her daughter and Adnan wants one for himself.She would rather buy things for her nephews and nieces,and would let him cry because he sees them buying things and nothing for him.

Tantrum behavior is usually defined as a combination of two or more maladaptive behaviors, such as screaming, aggression, crying, dropping to the ground, and self-injurious behavior. Often, tantrums can be attributed to sensory overload, anxiety, anger, or frustration. Tantrums are often crisis-level behaviors and can be dangerous for all involved.

Student E throws a tantrum after Outdoor play which if based here and in the other articles I have read is due to sensory overload.The sun's glare hurts his eyes that causes the sensory overload.He would run and jump and scream and cry out loud after each outdoor play which made me suggest he not be allowed to go out and play after snacks.It helped as I have written in the past articles.

Adnan would curl like a fetus and cover both his ears when he is starting to have sensory overload in the malls where there is a theme park inside for children to play with.Then he would cry out loud.After awhile when i see him cover his ears,I would bring him out of the place and wait inside the car for the others.

He would also cover his ears when his sister tries to get his toy from him.Then he would cry aloud.

Aggression is an act of violence to another person or object, including hitting, kicking, biting, slapping, pinching, grabbing, and pushing. Again, often this maladaptive behavior is triggered by painful sensory stimuli, anger, frustration, or anxiety. Another factor may be extreme exhaustion. Aggression can also be a learned behavior expressed in a pattern. The key to improving classroom learning for those with autistic spectrum disorder is decoding the communicative message of maladaptive behavior, and then adapting the treatment and setting accordingly.

Adnan kicks,hits,bites and scratches when I first came in.His Ethiopian nanny had marks on her shoulders of his bites,and scratch marks on her arms.After awhile I found out a lot of these are all learned behaviors from his sister who would hit him,kick him,push,and grab his toys for no reason.The mom lets her do it so she does for fun.He also bangs his head on the nanny when he gets frustrated.At one point he learned to fight back by pushing his sister or hitting when he gets threatened.

I have never seen an Autistic child wanting to hurt anybody intentionally unless they are threatened in the case of Adnan.Most get bullied because they do not know how to fight back as doing this has to be taught to them as well.And no teacher will teach them to hurt anybody.I used to tell Adnan,"tell Baba sister hit you".

All the maladaptive behaviors described above can be an attempt to communicate discomfort or stress. Stressors may be internal, sensory, or external in nature.

Lacking the ability to use conventional signals and to consider what the listener needs to know to understand them, they instead use maladaptive behaviors, such as self-injurious behavior or echolalia to express themselves .

In addition, autism spectrum disorder can cause severe sensitivity to environmental disturbances that may seem minor to others, for example, the sound of a phone, a change in place or routine, or a change in temperature. Since they lack a more effective, reliable means of communication, those with autism may use maladaptive behavior to try to change their environment.

Maladaptive behavior may also be an attempt to draw attention to themselves or something in the environment. People with autistic spectrum disorder have difficulty using language for socialization purposes, such as social interactions, establishing joint attention, and establishing social connections Requesting an item, greeting a person, asking or answering questions, commenting, conversation, and expression of feelings all become difficult.

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