Behavioral Interventions

Often, people with autism have trouble with transitions, sensory integration, impulsivity, and emotion regulation.  This sometimes leads to frustration on their part, which can come across as behavior problems, tantrums or “meltdowns.”  Below are some proactive ways to address these concerns, and help prevent undesired behavior.


Tell the person that a transition will be occurring well before it actually does (pre-setting).  This will give the person time to process and prepare for the upcoming change.  Often, it is helpful to use a visual, such as a picture or an actual object to help the person understand exactly what he/she will be doing next.  Some ideas are:

  • Pictures of the next activity (you can laminate these pictures and put them on your key ring, so you always have them near)
  • A piece of the object-for instance, when it is almost time to get dressed, hand the person his/her socks, a coat, shoes, etc, and explain that he/she will need to get dressed in 10, 5, 3, 2, 1 minutes
  • A daily schedule is also useful-make sure it is hanging someplace the person can see it
  • A daily schedule can also take the form of pictures on a clock-a picture of food on the 12, a bed on the 9, etc.

Sensory Integration Challenges

Allow the person many opportunities to engage in different types of activities that involve his/her senses.  These should be chosen based on the person’s preferences and age.   Some ideas are:

  • Sensory bins-rolled oats (not cooked), rice, water, play dough, macaroni dyed different colors with food coloring, silly putty, sand, etc
  • Music
  • Trampolines
  • Medicine balls
  • Bean bags
  • Colorful books, magazines, pictures, etc
  • Scent boxes-place lemons, oranges, coffee beans, cotton balls soaked in essential oils, etc in boxes or in clean, empty spice containers
  • Lots of opportunities to CHOOSE to try new foods (forcing someone to try new foods will most likely result in undesired behavior)
  • Heavy work-sucking thick liquids (such as smoothies, shakes, applesauce) through a straw, playing with playdough, pushing hands together, jumping jacks, pillow play, carrying an appropriately weighted book bag, blowing through a straw, chewy foods, pushing a wheelbarrow, kneading bread dough, etc.

Executive Functioning Skills

These are skills that allow a person to control his/her impulses, regulate his/her emotions, plan, focus his/her attention, remember instructions, prioritize multiple tasks, and shift his/her attention.  Developing these skills is very important in behavior management.  Some ideas to help people strengthen these skills are:

  • Memory games
  • Impulse games-red light/green light, Simon Says, turn taking games, etc
  • Planning games/activities-building with Legos, card games, tic tac toe, chess, etc
  • Musical Chairs
  • Social Stories

More Articles ...