Managing Challenging Behaviours

While students on the autism spectrum may exhibit some ‘odd’ or ‘unusual’ behaviours in the tertiary setting, these are rarely of a severity that will be disruptive to the overall delivery of teaching content. Adopting supportive teaching practices will further decrease the likelihood of escalation of any such behaviours. Very occasionally however, challenging behaviours may escalate to a level that threatens to disrupt the teaching session and requires individual intervention.

But first, remember your GPS Voice

While it is impossible to cater for every variation of a challenging situation that may arise, regardless of the challenging behaviour occurring, the most important first step in managing an escalating behavioural or emotional situation is to stay calm (or act like you are!) and adopt your best ‘GPS’ voice – removing all trace of emotional content from your voice and mannerisms. A student on the spectrum —and even more so an agitated or excited student on the spectrum —has great difficulty correctly interpreting body language and vocal tone. By removing these emotional features from your communication you will assist the student in identifying and interpreting exactly what it is you want them to do or not do. Your ‘GPS voice’ is factual, even-toned, concise and calm. Keep instructions to a minimum and, just like a GPS, keep repeating (and/or redirecting) if your instructions are ignored. Try and keep your directions focused on:

  • What you want the student to do.
  • How you want them to do it.
  • When do you want them to do.

Can we really change a student's behaviour?

Regardless of whether a student is on the spectrum or not - the short answer is 'no' - we can't change another person's behaviour. What we can change is our response to the behaviour. Watch the short animation to the right of this screen to explore this idea further, and how you incorporate this strategy into your everyday teaching practices.

What exactly is 'GPS Voice' and why does it work?

Can we change behaviour?