Parents and other caregivers often do not recognize that they inadvertently are encouraging undesirable behaviors until those behaviors have become a serious problem. Whether wittingly or unwittingly reinforced, a problem behavior must be recognized and stopped. Caregivers who intervene to stop or meet the demands of children or adults who have begun to hit themselves, for instance, must change their own behavior to provide reinforcement for a preferred behavior instead.
Another consideration is the environment and the degree of ease or difficulty with which a person with developmental disabilities can act appropriately within it. For example, people with Fragile X syndrome have sensory integration problems and are very distractible and impulsive. If these youngsters are placed in academic environments filled with attractive items, they may not be able to sustain attention to lessons, as they will be concentrating on touching and exploring these attractive things. In general, noisy or stimulating environments cause these individuals great distress and may promote problem behaviors. Unexpected changes also will distress them.
Many individuals with autistic disorder do not like changes in their personal routine. When confronted with changes in staff, living conditions, or usual routines, they may begin to engage in problem behaviors as a means of expressing their dissatisfaction.
Reviewed and revised May 2004 by Steven C. Schachter, MD, epilepsy.com Editorial Board.
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