What are Escape Behaviors?

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Although the term “escape behaviors” is often used to describe challenging behaviors, it can be more helpful for those who are experiencing them. The aim of this blog post is not to provide a comprehensive list of escape behavior options that may work for you, but rather discuss some thoughts and ideas on how these behaviors might manifest themselves in autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Escape behaviors are a form of self-stimulation that autistic people may do in order to feel calm and relaxed. They can be anything from rocking back and forth, to spinning, or even chewing on their clothes. Read more in detail here: escape behaviors examples.

Escape behaviors usually rank towards the top of the list of issues that parents and teachers deal with when it comes to problem behavior. Behavior analysts often hear comments like, “I keep repeating myself,” and “My kid is continuously whimpering or rejecting when I ask him to do things.” I wish my pupils had always listened to my directions. Without the proper resources and supports, escape behaviors may be difficult to stop, disruptive, and difficult to manage.  

What does ABA mean by escape behavior?

As the name implies, escape behaviors are any actions taken largely with the intention of avoiding, delaying, or ending an unpleasant situation. Some escape actions mainly serve to halt an ongoing demand or job. Sometimes the reaction is successful in preventing the first occurrence of something. Because the behavior was successful in fleeing or avoiding the unpleasant object in the environment, it is eventually sustained or continues.

Examples of Problem Behaviors Maintained by Escape

All kinds of bad habits may be sustained through escaping. The setting, the kind or length of the activity, or the amount of effort necessary may all affect what a youngster does to get out of doing their assignment. Here are some examples of escape-maintained problem behaviors to give you an idea of the great variety of ways these behaviors manifest themselves in children with ASD:

  • When a teacher tells a pupil to line up for the library, they run away.
  • dumping veggies on the ground or shoving them about the plate during meals.
  • stalling strategies before bed.
  • when a parent attempts to comb their child’s hair, they throw a tantrum or become physically aggressive.
  • chatting with a buddy while doing solo seatwork.
  • Changing words or refraining from saying certain phrases in challenging or stutter-triggering talks.
  • whining when a parent assists with schoolwork about how tough the arithmetic problems are.

Autism and evasion tendencies

Many parents and teachers wonder, why are escape behaviors so common among children with autism spectrum Disorder?  While all children engage in escape-maintained problem behaviors from time to time, many children with ASD have higher rates or greater intensity of escape behaviors. Autism and evasion tendencies tend to go hand-in-hand because many children with ASD lack the skills and tools needed to be successful in complex situations.

Escape-related activities are often quite successful in achieving the child’s desired outcome. A youngster may be motivated to continue utilizing the problematic behavior as a tool even if it just takes a few seconds to resolve the issue behavior.

When are escape attempts problematic?

Not every escape sustained activity is detrimental. Every healthy person exhibits various types of evasion and avoidance behaviors. Think of using a seatbelt to prevent harm, using sunglasses to block the sun’s brightness, or using a tissue to stop the discomfort of a runny nose. Not all escape attempts are harmful.

How can a parent or teacher determine when it’s appropriate to act since escape maintained bad behaviors may take on many different forms? Plan to intervene if a child’s escape behaviors prohibit them from developing new skills, interacting socially with friends or family, or posing a risk to themselves or others. The sooner you recognize and handle escape behaviors, the better, since children with autism benefit from stability and predictability in the people around them. A youngster may learn to anticipate that escape behaviors won’t be helpful over time with constant follow-through, and they’ll employ them less often as a result.

How Should Escape-Maintained Behaviors Be Handled?

Unfortunately, no one-size-fits-all solution exists to address problem behaviors maintained by escape.  When it comes to Autism and evasion tendencies, children often need individualized, systematic interventions to improve negative behavior patterns.  With that in mind, Applied Behavior Analysis provides parents and teachers with many different tools and strategies.  Some suggestions for treating escape-maintained behaviors with ABA interventions include:

  • Increase the frequency of breaks at scheduled periods. Many parents and educators struggle with time constraints. Adults may do well under pressure, but children may need more frequent breaks or pauses at set intervals in order to succeed.
  • educating the youngster to request assistance or a break. A youngster may resort to bad conduct if they lack the skills to politely ask for a break or assistance with difficult chores. Before a youngster grows irate, practice and encourage asking respectfully for a break. If a kid struggles to express himself verbally, consider having them point to a picture, make an ASL sign, or give an adult a card with the words “help” or “break” written on it.
  • To signal when a break is available, use a visual timetable. The same way that images may aid in asking for a break, they can also aid in signaling to a youngster when leisure or favorite activities are feasible. Sometimes anticipating a break will lessen the likelihood that someone would try to flee or put off doing something.
  • Cut the assignment down. Problems may sometimes be brought on by an activity’s duration or the amount of stages. For instance, it could be beneficial to divide the chores into shorter “homework sessions” with breaks in between if your kid can begin doing their schoolwork without displaying issue behavior but tends to get more and more irritated as the time goes on.
  • Let the kid decide how the duties will be completed. Children with ASD may benefit greatly from the power of choice. Try giving a kid a list or a visual timetable of the tasks they need to do. Permit them to arrange the chores in the sequence that makes sense to them or suits their preferences.
  • Start with a few simple activities and work your way up to tougher ones. The ideal approach to begin a demanding exercise is with a “warm-up,” as coaches and athletes have long recognized. The same is true for kids with ASD and challenging social tasks. Prior to progressing to the real work or the most difficult social circumstances, practice simple scenarios or practice more doable responsibilities.
  • Give a “..then…” behavioral contract to follow the challenging task. Behavioral contracts are another well-liked method for avoiding habits that are sustained. A “first…then” phrase sets clear expectations for a youngster and consistently connects challenging activities with more appealing or simpler ones.

It’s crucial to remember that each of these approaches has advantages and disadvantages. It could require a variety of tactics to address the escape-behaviors, depending on the behavioral patterns of each kid and the environmental triggers. Consult a local autism specialist or Behavior Analyst for information on resources and intervention help if you have concerns about the behavior of your particular kid.

Amy Sippl

Behavior Analysis in Applied Settings | Saint Cloud State University

Psychology Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) | University of Minnesota

A month in 2020

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The “escape behavior psychology” is a term that is used to describe the behaviors that people with autism have when they are overwhelmed. These behaviors can range from self-injury, to aggression, to withdrawal.

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