Susan's Blog

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Call in the FBA

Readers and friends ask me pretty frequently what to do when their ASD kid starts exhibiting difficult behaviors in school. One friend reported that the principal had said something like, “The goal is to get him to be as normal as possible.” I disagree. That is not the goal. And ironically, if that is the goal, that may just be the reason for the difficult behaviors.

Kids can feel when they are being judged. Hearing others around you say that you are not normal can have a bad effect on a person. We all know that. Why would it be different when you’re autistic?

Then there is the question of getting to normal. First of all, what is normal? I sure as heck don’t know. I’m not being goofy here; I really don’t know anymore. You scratch anyone’s surface and you find a whole Pandora’s box of strangeness. I used to think I was normal, but I’ve been scratching my surface a lot lately and I have found some real weirdness. I used to think Nat wasn’t. But I see Nat, trying so hard to work within the strictures of this world, unquestioning, trying to get along with everyone, to do what we all want of him, to be a good person, a loving family member. That is above normal for a nearly 17 year old boy. And me? Well, just read this blog and decide for yourself.

Normal is an interesting topic. I think it could be a good book, though: Guidebook to Normal Behavior, by I.M. Regularguy. There is some kind of agreed-upon code, though, and I do know what it is, and Nat does not. That probably makes me normal. It is hard to teach him the code, too. It reminds me of what it is like for Max to learn certain aspects of a foreign language, like noun gender. He tells me how ridiculous it is that French has male and female words. He says, “All you can do is memorize them; it makes no sense at all.”


Or, he learns, by using the language in supportive environment, how to converse fluidly and fluently. Sink or swim doesn’t generally work except for certain kinds of learners. Other learning styles must be accommodated by the school system. This is the law. Anyway, it is not acceptable for a principal or staff person to say that the goal is normalcy. The goal is to get the child to be able to learn what it is school has to teach him; the goal is to master his IEP/the curriculum laid out for him.

How does he get there if something is bothering him enough to cause him to act out? That has to be figured out. If the behaviors are disruptive to the class, there has to be an FBA, a Functional Behavioral Assessment, done with the purpose of determining whether the behavior is due to a diagnosis issue or not. The FBA produces recommendations to everyone. An FBA has to be done within a certain, prescribed period of time after the request is made.

If an FBA is not indicated by the child’s actions, then the team should at least be reconvened to troubleshoot. This should be done before things escalate too much. The parents should make sure the child is feeling well; sometimes if a kid is nonverbal it is hard to know if he is sick or sad or pissed off at a particular teacher or something else. There are always reasons for “difficult behavior.” You just need to call in the right people to investigate.


Great post Susan, good advice and things to get thinky about.

If you’re posting on Saturday, can you quickly send tonight’s lottery numbers to me πŸ™‚

— added by Someone Said on Friday, October 20, 2006 at 7:22 pm

that was a really insightful post, Suzylicious.

— added by Robert Hutc on Friday, October 20, 2006 at 8:38 pm

Very well said. One of Daniel’s therapists once replied when my daugher asked if we were done yet, “Done! We won’t be done until he’s a normal boy.” We left. We never went back and never will.

— added by Carolyn on Friday, October 20, 2006 at 9:06 pm

We have found with Charlie that “bad” behavior is often followed by a big cognitive leap. This is our rationale for that belief.

When Charlie (age 6) develops a deeper understanding in any area, (speech, social interaction, reading, spelling, the list is endless) but is unable to express or vocalize what he now knows, he becomes more frustrated than ever and acts out.

Chuck and I reassure each other and his teachers/TSS that while we are currently under siege, we have to wait and see what will be coming next for Charlie in terms of his next Quantum Leap. It is astounding that it happens this way every time.

Last time he discovered the concept of Thousands and spelling at the same time. Once he had words to communicate those things he settled down, but while they were bottled up inside him he was in torment.

— added by Mom on Friday, October 20, 2006 at 9:15 pm

WOW! Can you come and do an inservice for my school system? Very well said!!

— added by Anonymous on Saturday, October 21, 2006 at 12:02 am

Yes, I give talks to professionals and parents all the time (I’m in Wisconsin right now, for a keynote at the Wisconsin Autism Society). Email me so we can set something up.

— added by Susan Senator on Saturday, October 21, 2006 at 12:07 am

JanB, this happens with A too. Sometimes he even seems to lose a little, academically, as he slots his new knowledge into place amongst all the older stuff. The already known stuff can get displaced and inaccessible for a while. And yes, lots of frustration.

— added by bethduckie on Saturday, October 21, 2006 at 5:56 am

Beth, Yes! Here too! Charlie regresses and sometimes loses almost all of his language when he is suffering during one of these times. I forgot to mention that! Wow, it is great to hear of someone that has the same stuff going on. Makes me feel less alone.

Like when MOM-NOS mentioned her son picking up on thunder storms well before they happened and being terrorized by them. That is Charlie, as well. I didn’t know that other kids had the same problem.

— added by Mom on Saturday, October 21, 2006 at 8:41 am

It’s amazing what the school system can do, should do, and KNOWS what to do, but if the parent isn’t fully informed and educated (through their own research), many times nothing is done. As was the case with my Autistic son last year. He was in a school that had never had a classroom with Autistic children, and as a result he was judged by his teacher, aide, and the other teachers and students. His behavior escalated to the point that he was bloody and bruised (by his own hand) daily. I finally had to hire an advocate who helped me tremendously, and now, finally, a year later, we have an FBA. But, it took a lot of fighting. We are very fortunate to live near Kennedy Kreiger Institute, and they are also helping to intervene with the school to make things right. Susan, it would be great to have you come and speak to our school system. I think many parents could benefit from your experience and knowledge.

— added by Anonymous on Saturday, October 21, 2006 at 10:40 am

You go, girl. Preach it.

— added by ASDmomNC on Saturday, October 21, 2006 at 1:30 pm

right on, susan. All behavior is communication. one just has to be willing to find out WHAT is being communicated. sometimes it takes time, but what could be more important?

— added by kyra on Saturday, October 21, 2006 at 2:04 pm

Good one!

— added by Estee Klar-Wolfond on Saturday, October 21, 2006 at 4:37 pm

Thanks again, Susan. I wish I could remember the exact words he said. I just remember boiling inside because that is what I expected him to say. I often wonder if Chance would be better off being taught one on one. Screw statistics. Did you get your costume yet?

— added by mrs. gilb on Sunday, October 22, 2006 at 6:28 pm

Hi Mrs. G —
My belly dance costume was LOST in the MAIL!!!!! Nothing can be done. “It’s the Post Office. We don’t care. We don’t have to, snort, snort.” Neither did!
But — Laura bought me a great belly dance bikini top that goes wtih all my stuff, so I’m set! AND I bought some great 4″ knee-high boots today!!;=63254729&&var;=d&ckey;=US

— added by Susan Senator on Sunday, October 22, 2006 at 6:40 pm

We share a goal then. I don’t want Alena to be normal. I want her to be happy. πŸ˜€

— added by Anonymous on Monday, October 23, 2006 at 12:54 pm