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How to Boost Flexible Behavior and Decrease Stereotyped Behavior

Updated: Jul 10, 2023

Stereotypical behavior or fixations may lead children to exhibit challenging behaviors when things do not turn as expected, or in the desired order. This behavior shows resistance to change due to its rigidity. Children who are rigid thinkers often resist change, reject redirection, or refuse to see more than one way to solve a problem. We could describe them as children who want their way!.

On the other hand, flexible thinking is the ability to shift gears or change direction to adjust to unexpected circumstances or novel problems. Flexible thinking helps children to adapt, solve problems, and incorporate new plans and ideas. Flexible thinking is a key for handling big emotions and teaching children to self-regulate.

In this video, I would like to share my work as an ABA therapist to help a boy who was exhibiting intense challenging behaviors whenever he wasn't able to place his puzzle letters in alphabetical order. When watching the video, you will notice that after we get letter A, having B already in place, he asks for letter C and attempts to take it from the bag, instead of randomly picking a letter. He was lucky to get letter C!

By building flexibility and tolerating change, the boy was able to tolerate not being in control of the order letters appeared, tolerate change, and allow others to complete the puzzle. This behavioral change was the first step to increasing flexibility and decreasing challenging behaviors.

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