Lately, I have begun paying attention to the ways people parent when they are on community outings. Many times, I see toddler tantrums that make me laugh. Why do I laugh? Well, if the parent is laughing, then the parent understands why the toddler is throwing such a fit.
You see, many parents understand that toddlers are going to tantrum. Many parents also know why their toddlers throw tantrums. Toddler tantrums are really just words that the toddler has not yet acquired.
“I want _______”
“I don’t want __________”
“_______ is mine”
You know what else? Pet owners often understand what their pets are trying to tell them.
“Let’s play fetch”
“Let’s go outside”
“I have to potty”
“I’m tired and can’t walk anymore. Carry me.”
Pet owners know what their dog is saying, even though they cannot speak.
What I have never understood, however, is why people don’t understand (or don’t even try to understand) the tantrums exhibited by individuals with autism. Individuals with autism who are non-verbal have tantrums because they, too, have not yet acquired the words. Yet, when they have a tantrum, people are not laughing. Whey they have a tantrum, people get mad. When they have a tantrum, they get restrained, punished, or yelled at.
What we, as behavior analysts have learned over the years, is that individuals with autism are using their behaviors to communicate. A behavior analyst’s job is to assess what the individual with autism is trying to say with his tantrum.
“I want ________”
“I don’t want ______”
“I need help ________”
“I am all done”
That assessment is called a functional behavioral assessment. After the assessment, the behavior analyst designs a communication intervention program to teach the individual to communicate instead of tantrumming. You’ve heard the old saying, “Use your words”. When an individual is non-verbal, she does not have words. So, behavior analysts teach augmentative and alternative communication strategies or AAC. Individuals can learn to sign. They can learn to use pictures to express their wants. Or they can use an iPad equipped with proloquo2go. The options are endless.
So, next time you are out in public and you see an individual with autism throwing a tantrum, think about your toddler and her tantrums. Know that the individual is trying to tell us something. We just need to stop and listen.
This is one of our favorite posts. We are hoping to share it with others today as we link up with Ado over at the Momalog as she celebrates her blog’s first birthday. Hop on over there and check out the other bloggers’ favorite posts.