Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility Escape behaviors during tasks in individuals with autism spectrum disorder

Escape behaviors during tasks in individuals with autism spectrum disorder

Escape Behaviors During Tasks In Individuals With Autism Spectrum Disorder

Escape behaviors during tasks in individuals with autism spectrum disorder

Writer: Amy Spell Master of Applied Behavior Analysis

translation: a. Lujain Bin Jadid

Parents and teachers may face challenges with unwanted behaviors and one of the most common challenges is escape behavior in individuals with autism spectrum disorder. Behavior analysts often hear statements such as: “My child constantly complains and refuses when I ask him for something,” especially teachers. “I hope the student follows instructions the first time.” Not only is escape behavior challenging and disruptive to management, but the behavior can also be difficult to overcome without appropriate intervention and support.

What is escape behavior in applied behavior analysis?

In applied behavior analysis, we refer to escape behavior, which is fleeing, avoiding, or postponing an unwanted event. The function of escape behavior may include stopping the request or task, However, the response may work to prevent escape from occurring, but over time the behavior may continue due to its effectiveness in escaping the unwanted event or avoiding undesirable things in the environment.

Behaviors that maintain escape behavior

Escape behaviors can come in all kinds of ways. What a child may use to avoid work can depend on the environment, the type of task, or the amount of effort required.

Some examples of how escape behaviors appear in children with autism spectrum disorder:

  • Escape when the teacher calls on the student to line up during the playground
  • Pushing or throwing food on the floor while eating
  • Delaying bedtime
  • A tantrum or physical aggression when a parent tries to comb a child’s hair
  • Talk to a friend during class assignments
  • Substitute words or avoid phrases in conversations that are difficult or in which stuttering may occur
  • Complaining about the difficulty of solving arithmetic problems when a parent helps the child with homework

Escape behaviors and autism spectrum disorder

Many parents and teachers wonder, Why might escape be such a common behavior among children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder?

While all typically developing children may engage in escape behaviors from time to time, However, many children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder have higher rates of escape behaviors.

Children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder may exhibit escape behaviors because they lack the skills needed to succeed in complex situations.

Escape behaviors can be effective in getting the child exactly what he wants, which is escape! Even if it only takes a few seconds to change the problem behavior, This may be enough to delay the task and motivate the child to continue using the problem behavior as an escape tool.

When can escape behaviors become a problem in children with autism spectrum disorder?

Not all persistent escape behavior is a problem. Typically developing children may engage in some forms of escape and task avoidance behaviors. Consider wearing a seat belt to avoid injury. Or wear sunglasses to escape the sun’s rays, Or wipe the nose with a tissue to end the unpleasant effects of a runny nose.

If persistent escape behaviors may come in all ways, How does a parent or teacher know when it is time to intervene?

When escape behaviors prevent a child from learning new skills, Or interact socially with friends or family, or may cause harm to himself or others, When making intervention plans to reduce escape behavior, it can be considered that children with autism spectrum disorder have the ability to anticipate and notice the presence of adults around them. Therefore, once you notice escape behaviors and develop a treatment plan early, the better. Through continuous follow-up, The child can anticipate that escape behaviors will not be effective as they may be demonstrated less frequently.

How to reduce escape behavior in children with autism spectrum disorder?

There is no single solution or unified treatment plan to reduce the behaviors that maintain escape behavior. Therefore, intervention must be made by developing individual treatment plans to reduce unwanted behavior.

The field of applied behavior analysis is useful for parents and teachers to reduce escape behaviors in children with autism spectrum disorder by providing appropriate interventions and strategies. Some applied behavior analysis strategies include:

Provide access to breaks frequently and at regular times: Many parents and teachers may find themselves strapped for time even though they may respond well under pressure. Therefore, a child with autism spectrum disorder may need frequent and regular periods of rest for the intervention to be effective.

Teaching the child to ask for a break or ask for help: If a child with autism spectrum disorder lacks the skill of how to ask for a break or how to ask for help with difficult tasks, He may use undesirable behavior instead. Parents and teachers must train and reinforce the child’s request for a break. If the child is non-verbal, place pictures in front of the child, use signs, or hand a “break” or “help” card to a parent or teacher.

Use visual schedules to indicate available break time: Visual schedules can help with requesting a break. A child with autism spectrum disorder can also be reminded of the time to do favorite activities or the time to stop working. Knowing the upcoming break can reduce the likelihood of escape behavior to avoid upcoming tasks.

Reduce task: Sometimes the length or number of steps of an activity may be the cause of escape or avoidance of tasks. Example, If a child with autism spectrum disorder can begin doing homework without unwanted behaviors but tends to become more and more frustrated as time increases, It may be very helpful here to reduce homework tasks and include rest periods between tasks.

Allow the child to choose the order of tasks: The choice strategy is effective with children with autism spectrum disorder. Parents and teachers can provide the child with a visual schedule of tasks to be completed and allow them to arrange the tasks in the way they prefer.

Putting easy tasks down to more complex ones: This can be measured by the fact that warming up before exercise is the best way to start strenuous exercises, as this may apply to children with autism spectrum disorder in social skills. You can start by practicing easy scenarios and then practice more complex tasks in social situations.

“First…then…..” strategy: This strategy can be used to reduce escape behavior by setting the required task and then the child’s favorite activity, as this strategy clarifies clear expectations for the child.

It is important to note that each of these interventions has pros and cons. This may depend on the child’s behavior and the stimuli present in the environment. A combination of strategies may be required to reduce and limit escape behaviors. If you have questions about the behavior of your child with autism spectrum disorder, you should consult an autism specialist or certified behavior analyst for appropriate intervention and support.


What are Escape Behaviors? (