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Learning Centre

Practical Scripts for Decreasing Challenging Behaviours

Students with autism and developmental disabilities may engage in a variety of activities that are considered disruptive or harmful to themselves or others. Students’ challenging behaviors may serve important purposes, such as self-soothing or anxiety management. While most students do not intend to disrupt others, their behaviours can negatively impact the classroom environment, especially by preventing other students’ learning, and/or cause school staff to feel threatened or upset. In these cases, there is a need for quick and efficient behaviour management strategies.

The behaviour management scripts in this booklet are derived from research-based approaches that are known to be effective for school staff to use with students with autism and developmental disabilities. These scripts are intended to be a starting point only, and as always, it is best practice to consult with the student’s school team to establish the best approaches for the particular student. These scripts are meant to help teachers and other school staff to manage behaviours in the moment that they are happening.

It is important to note that after beginning an intervention, you may actually notice a short-term increase in disruptive behaviors. It is important to continue interventions even when this occurs.

If the increase persists (e.g., over several days), the importance of consulting clinical professionals likewise increases. Safety precautions may be necessary when implementing these scripts in an educational setting.

Research shows that understanding the function of a particular behaviour is the most important element in effectively changing behaviours. Conducting a functional assessment before an intervention by a qualified behaviour analyst is strongly recommended. While we do want the procedures in this booklet to be practical for use in the educational setting, we recommend some form of monitoring of the behaviour before and after the intervention as a general rule that should occur with all the scripts in this booklet. Otherwise, how will teachers and other school staff know that a procedure is working or not? Assistance in learning to implement these scripts and to evaluate the effectiveness of the interventions may also be needed and the school team can support that process.

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