This article, written by Beth Aune,OTR/L, is part of Future Horizons’ Author News Series, where we feature contributions from our authors.
As a pediatric occupational therapist with a private practice providing OT in the home, clinic, and schools, it is an honor and a privilege to work closely with teachers, parents and caregivers of children with a variety of special needs, including those with ASD. This rewarding partnership is a valuable component to help children develop vital skills to help them be effective and active participants during the daily activities of their lives.
This contextual and collaborative approach is both necessary and beneficial to foster the children’s increased independence, improved behavior, and healthy self-image, as well as promoting improved peace and harmony at school, home and in the community. Based on reports and concerns of teachers and parents, the three Behavior Solutions books were conceived, and reflect this valuable partnership.
What is behavior? Behavior is defined as, “The actions and reactions of a system or organism, usually in relation to its environment” (Dictionary.com).
Unfortunately, the term, “behavior” often carries a negative association when it is used to describe a child’s actions and reactions in the home and school environment: “Johnny has behavior problems.” Even more unfortunately, there can be a stated or implied attitude that children with ASD have direct control over their behavior, or even worse, choose to behave in a variety of manners that makes it challenging for them to be alert, attentive, and active students and family members.
This outlook can neglect the importance of “the actions of a system (child) in relation to its environment.” This, in a nutshell, describes the relationship between sensory processing and behavior.
What is sensory processing? It is the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord’s) ability to register, interpret, integrate, organize, and effectively respond to, information from our senses.
A child must be able to effectively organize and use this information in order to maintain an alert and aware arousal state, pay attention, and learn. Children with ASD often have difficulty interpreting sensory information from the environment and even from their own bodies. They may be under-responsive, overly responsive, or exhibit excessive sensory seeking/craving behavior. These maladaptive responses will negatively affect the child’s behavior and can cause disruption, disorganization, and chaos in the classroom and home.
As an occupational therapist, “behavior” is simply what we observe. Critically observing a child’s actions can help us understand his reactions to sensory stimuli from the environment and his body.
My two previous books, coauthored with Beth Burt and Peter Gennero, Behavior Solutions for the Inclusive Classroom and Behavior Solutions for the Inclusive Classroom and Beyond, focused on providing practical solutions and strategies for teachers and school personnel to respond to the child’s negative behaviors associated with poor sensory processing.
During my work with children and their families at Desert OT for Kids, my outpatient clinic in Palm Desert, California, I am fortunate to partner with a multitude of dedicated parents and caregivers. Through the many years as a pediatric OT, questions and concerns consistently arose that required guidance, practical strategies, and support to help their child.
My most recent book in the series, Behavior Solutions in the Home and Community, was conceived in response to those questions and concerns. It is my greatest dream and desire for this book to reflect my passion for my work, and to offer hope and solutions to numerous parents and caregivers that are so wonderfully and beautifully dedicated to their children.
Also available: the Behavior Solutions Library, featuring all three books!
Use code AAM for 15% off Behavior Solutions for the Home and Community through the end of April!
Get in touch with Beth Aune on Facebook and "like" the Desert Occupational Therapy Facebook page.