Understanding the behaviour of my child

Children on the autistic spectrum can display problem behaviours, and as a parent, it can be hard to manage. It isn’t always possible to take a step back and think about what is happening, and what can be done.

This is where behaviour analysts can help. Behaviour analysts look at the problem behaviour that is happening and analyse exactly why it is occurring.

The function is established by taking and analysing what is called A, B, C data. This looks at the antecedent, behaviour and consequence. In other words, we want to know what happened directly before and after the behaviour.

The antecedent is what happens directly before the behaviour:

  • Where does the behaviour happen?
  • Who is around when it happen?
  • When does it happen?
  • What activities were happening at the time?
  • What were others doing at this time?
  • Did anything change just before the behaviour started?

All of this information helps us to understand exactly why the child engages in any type of behaviour.

The behaviour:

As much information as possible is recorded here. For example, instead of writing “aggression” specifics are recorded, for example “kicked sibling” or “hit adult with fist”

The consequence:

What happens directly after the behaviour is recorded here, for example, “played with musical toy” or “went to bedroom”.

This information helps us to understand why the behaviour happens more than once – if the behaviour is an effective communication strategy for them (despite it being an appropriate behaviour or not).


This data is then analysed to in order to work out the function of the behaviour – exactly why the behaviour is occurring. Often the functions are to gain access to items, to gain attention of a parent or adult, or to avoid situations.

Once the function has been established, an alternative, more appropriate, functionally equivalent behaviour can be taught.

So, if the function is established to be in order to gain access to something, the child can be taught to communicate their desires through speech, sign or pictures, instead of engaging in the problem behaviour.  (See our other blogs about communication http://earlyactionforautism.co.uk/blogg/howcaniteachcommunicationathome http://earlyactionforautism.co.uk/blogg/mychilddoesnttalkhowdoiteachthemtocommunicate )

If the function is to gain attention of a parent or adult, the child can be taught to tap their hand or call their name in order to gain their attention.

If the function is to avoid situations, the specific situation can be broken down into smaller, much more achievable steps.

We hope this blog gives you an outline of how ABA can help support you and your child with overcoming problem behaviour.  This is a huge topic and, as with all ABA strategies, they are highly individualised for each child. There is a vast amount of research, strategies and effective methods that mean that problem behaviour does not have to be a daily occurrence for your child or family.

If you have any questions, we would love to hear from you at  http://earlyactionforautism.co.uk/contact/