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Hitting to Gain Attention

An AS boy in my classroom hits other children but does not appear angry. Why does he do this and how can I help him learn to stop?

My Opinion:
AS children who hit will do so for several reasons, most of which do not seem to apply to what you are describing. Many times it is because it is what he learns at home or school, parents hitting, or peers or siblings, etc. Many times also it is to seek attention, the thought being negative attention is better than no attention at all. Also it can be an anger or frustration outlet, at his situation or his treatment by others or a number of other things.

But these do not appear to apply based on what you have written here. However, my impression from what you have written here would seem to me that this child does not understand how to approach another child to get that child's attention. You say he will approach a child he likes and hit him with no provocation. This sounds to me like he wants to obtain this child's attention, perhaps to play with him, but he does not understand that it is not appropriate to do it this way. It appears he really does not know how to approach the other child to gain attention, but he does see other kids touching each other, probably shoulder taps, and he does not realize that what he is seeing is taps and not hits.

Social stories can be good, but it is my experience that they are lacking in one fundamental step. The child must not only be TOLD the story, he must also be SHOWN how to do what the story relates. For example, a social story about gaining another child's attention by gentle tapping on the shoulder, or words such as "may I play with you", must also be accompanied by an adult actually modeling for the child the desired behavior. So you would find another child who would be willing to help, tell that other child that you will be showing the AS boy how to gain attention, then take the AS boy, bring him up to the other child, and show him by modeling the desired behavior, along with telling him the story before and after you do this. The child who is assisting must also know how to cooperate with this situation, because if he does not cooperate by saying "yes" and then playing with the AS child, the AS child will learn the opposite of what you are trying to teach him, that your idea is actually something which will NOT work.

Regarding forms of punishment, many AS children do not understand consequences of punishment, so another type of system must be discovered to teach appropriate behavior. You say this child enjoys dinosaurs. Instead of removing them for bad behavior, allow him to play with them as rewards for good behavior. Perhaps that strategy might work for this child. Tell him in advance (this is important, he will learn better with advance notice so no surprises), that when he approaches a child to gain attention in the appropriate manner, that he will be allowed to do [whatever you decide is a good reward for him]. Then you will have to be vigilant about watching him, help him the first few times to practice appropriate behavior, then give him his reward.

If after this, he again hits another child in this fashion, immediately go to him and explain to him that he has not practiced appropriate behavior, help him to do the appropriate thing right then with that child, but this time because he needed your help, he does not get his reward. This will give him needed practice immediately upon him wanting to gain the attention, where it is his desire and he will be receptive to learning it, plus he will see that if he hits first, he still has to do it correctly, but he will only get a reward if he does it correctly the first time without your help.

Also the idea of removing dairy is a good idea. It has been found that approximately 40% of children who are autistic or AS have a dairy intolerance. Removal of dairy from their diets can have a major impact on their level of functioning. You can get more information on that at www.gfcfdiet.com, if you are interested.

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