Connect with S.U.C.C.E.S.S. Podcast With Dr. Richard Smith and Dr. Lynette Scotese-Wojtila Episode 201, Season 2, Launch Date: November 15, 2021 Listen on major podcast platforms, and here: https://thesuccessapproach.org/autism-podcast
Our blog posts serve as brief overviews of our podcast episodes. The first episode in season 2 of Connect with S.U.C.C.E.S.S., a podcast built around the S.U.C.C.E.S.S. Approach and the person who coined it, Dr. Lynette Scotese-Wojtila, is all about Behavior.
This episode is actually a very special one because we're going to be presenting the last pillar of what The S.U.C.C.E.S.S. Approach (sm) is built upon which involves behavior and autism. Behavior is an observable response to a stimulus.
When we talk about behavior in terms of Integrations Treatment Center and The S.U.C.C.E.S.S. Approach (sm) , we need to talk about and define function.
Function can be defined as the why, or maybe the “what” behind what one does, meaning the purpose or the intention behind the behavior. So if you think about the purpose behind behavior, it gives us something to assess, something to wonder about. Whereas if you just look at the behavior, we tend to fall as a society, at least in the United States of America, into the trap of assessing it in the sense of good or bad, so we cast judgment on it. We place judgment on it.
When might say, “He did this and it was wrong” or “She did this and it was bad." We have to stop, think and go back and say, “But why did they do it? What function was served by it?” We have to think of function. So whenever we start talking about purpose or intention, or function, we have to be thinking about the brain, and how this is a cognitive thing. We have to think about the function; we have to know and understand the function, we have to be intentional. So when we think about that, and the cognition or the thought behind the function, it allows us to see deficit, so remember, like I said, many episodes in a row, autism is a brain-based problem. It's a neurodevelopmental brain-based problem. It impacts behavior, but in itself, it is not a behavioral condition. And so if we take that cognition out of it, so if function has to do with purpose and cognition, and we are engaging in the behavior as humans do, of raising our hand to answer a question, then the purpose or the intention is this gesture, means I have something to say. That's the meaning behind it. If we take that out, we take cognition out, or intention out, we’re basically left with a motor performance, just an act of our body, a movement of our limb. And the point in expressing it that way and giving that example of raising your hand, is because there are a lot of kids out there who, and in an analogy kind of way, are raising their hands and don't know why. So they have learned a motor act. They've learned something that is a performance skill. In the model of human occupation, if you remember that we talked about that triangle of performance, the very base of it is motor skills. So the child has the motor skill to raise their hand. They do raise their hand, but do they know why they're raising their hands? Right? So it's one thing to put a child in an environment and have them understand the value of raising their hand as a gestural cue: I have something to say. And it's another thing to put them in an environment have them raised their hand just so they fit in like everybody else.
Our reaction to the behavior needs to be strategic in a way that we're assessing what's causing it.
In that sense, we're talking a little bit about behavior that might be maladaptive that we have to understand, but an important thing to know about behavior, and it's good that you put it out that way. It can also be adaptive. Raising your hand is adaptive. Kicking up here is not, right? And so we want to ask the question, because it's important to answer it. Why does the child raise their hand to answer a question, and why does the child kick? There are reasons to both. One is very positive and functional, and the other might be perceived as maladaptive. And but they both had a reason behind it. And they both involve performance. One was the upper limb and one with the lower limb.
If we look at the function of the first, raising the hand to answer a question, it is a motor act, but it's a motor act - only engage - the brain only engages in that task when it ties it to function and cognition. And knows this is what I do when I want to express an answer to the teacher. For the child who's kicking, they may be not be so thoughtful, they may not be so intentional, they're probably more reactive. And remember, a behavior is nothing more really nothing less than a response to a stimulus, right. So if somebody agitated that child, that's the stimulus, right? And the reaction is the kick. Well, the child who raised their hand had a stimulus to it was a little synaptic light bulb that went off that said, I know this answer, right. So they both have reasons and triggers as to why they do it. And we tend to as a society, especially in America, worry about or attend to, or notice more, the maladaptive behaviors, but both have reasons and I think we need to start pointing out to our kids and to ourselves, and to our, our fellow team members on the child's team, the teacher, the principal, the gym teacher, the bus driver, whoever it is, that's part of this team, that this child is doing a lot of things that are good all day long. They are raising their hand when they know something they're opening the door for a teacher, or they are getting their lunch when they're asked to. But when something pushes them beyond their capacity, they might also kick. So the kicking is probably out of all those behaviors, the thing that's going to get a teacher's note sent home, or a parent's going to get a call or a parent's going to be embarrassed in a store. It's not just teachers that store these things. It's our parents too. But our kids are doing a lot right all day long as well.
The Challenge from this Podcast Episode on Behavior:
"Today's challenge is to look at your loved one, your child with autism, or your student, as you're serving them. And as you see a behavior ask yourself, what might be the trigger? Why is this behavior happening? What caused it? And take it one step further, and jot down your answer and then watch for that behavior again. And repeat the same exercise. You'll start to see what we call a profile, a profile of what is triggering the child. And once you have that information, you can bring it to the resources you have, hopefully, the least of which is an occupational therapist, who can help you know what to do about the profile you've revealed." ~ Dr. Lynette Scotese-Wojtila
We hope you listen to the whole podcast on Spotify, Apple or other major podcast platforms. You can also access it via our website here: https://thesuccessapproach.org/autism-podcast
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We hope that you learned something today to help you on your journey with autism. We'll share more on our next Connect with Success Podcast. Until then, expect success!