Punishment vs Natural Consequences

The word punishment in dictionary terms refers to ‘a penalty inflicted for an offense, fault, etc.’

A punishment is often used in response to a behaviour – the behaviour is sometimes seen to be an offense or a fault on behalf of the individual.

Is punishment about teaching someone to think about things differently or is it aimed at wanting them to ‘toe the line’?

Punishment can be given in many different ways – verbally, physically and mentally, all of which can have long lasting effects on someone’s wellbeing. Punishment is often a negative consequence that aims at trying to stop the behaviour (with the hope of it never returning).

We need to ask ourselves some very important questions:

Is punishment sustainable?

Does this type of consequence ‘fit’ the behaviour?

Are we looking close enough at the reasons for the behaviour?

Using natural or related consequences helps to teach someone the outcome of an action or a behaviour – to learn that their actions have a consequence.

For example, if the daily chore was to empty the bins and the person swings the bin around in the air, having all the rubbish fall out on the ground, then the consequence would be to pick up all of the rubbish. It is a logical consequence as they learn to take responsibility for what they do!

If natural consequences are going to be dangerous or reward an unwanted behaviour, it might mean rethinking some strategies to help support.

Please contact us if you’re needing assistance in relation to behaviour and consequences!

Behaviour Support or Person Support?

In last week’s post, we discussed the idea that Behaviour = Communication. That if you look really closely at behaviour, you’ll see that it is telling you something. And quite often, it can be something environmental that causes a person to communicate with us through behaviour.

Let’s take a person on the autism spectrum for example. If an environment is not catering for their needs and their ability to feel safe, we’ll often see behaviour telling us so. If the environment doesn’t provide enough structure or certainty, if language and communication is being misunderstood, if social expectations are causing stress and uncertainty, or if sensory support is not available in the way that it needs to be, we may see behaviour telling us that things just aren’t right. Unfortunately though, the behaviour that we see can sometimes be misconstrued as the person simply being ‘naughty’, ‘annoying’, ‘obnoxious’, or ‘defiant’.

This week we’re setting a challenge for us all…

And that challenge is to look further than our first thoughts of behaviour simply being annoying and frustrating, and consider what the underlying message that is being communicated might be.

When we look for the reason behind the behaviour (or, what the behaviour is communicating), we place ourselves in a much better position to support the person rather than to simply ‘manage behaviour’. Instead of ‘behaviour support’ we can think of it as ‘person support’. And when we support the person, we enable positive communication, and greater well being for all.


Understanding Behaviour – ‘Behaviour is Communication’

When we see a behaviour, a person is simply trying to communicate something! For example, if they are jumping up and down with excitement, we can assume that they are really happy – similarly if we see someone crying, it is because they are very sad.

Behaviour is a way of communicating needs or wants in response to an environment. Behaviour allows communication ‘beyond words’.

What we often don’t realise is that when someone is ‘acting out’, screaming or aggressive in nature, they are trying to tell us something that is often difficult to communicate with speech.

Heightened anxiety or stress is a major contributing factor that is often misunderstood. It could be misconceived as a reluctance to conform or adhere to rules and expectations.

Each person has their own set of sensory sensitivities and it’s important to be aware of these – if sensory needs are not being met, there will often be an explosion of emotion – usually in the physical form, screaming, crying and aggression.

Whether verbal or non-verbal, in moments of heightened anxiety, the ability to process information and communicate effectively is reduced and sometimes the only way to get the message to you is to respond with behaviour.

Some of the behaviours that you might see are as follows:

– Aggression – self harm / harm to others                  – Absconding / running away

– Throwing items / furniture                                        – Withdrawal / refusal

– Screaming / crying / swearing                                 – Crawling under tables or in cupboards

– Sensory seeking / avoiding behaviours                   – Selective mutism

– Stimming / flapping / rocking / pacing

These types of behaviours may be linked back to the following reasons:

Misunderstanding or confusion – Social Misunderstanding, Communication and Confusion about what is expected or what a task involves.

Sensory sensitivities – Too much sensory input (oversensitive) or not enough input (undersensitive)

Anxiety or stress – about what is going to happen, what has happened or what is happening now.

Communication difficulties – Not being sure of what was communicated, or not being sure of how to communicate.

Emotion confusion – Feeling overloaded with emotion and not knowing what to do with it or how to respond to it.

Boredom or under / over stimulation – a common thing that may well be overlooked.

Pain associated with conditions eg. ear infections, headaches

Intolerances to food/environment eg. Allergies


Once we analyse the behaviour and work out what it is trying to tell us, we can look more closely at the environment to ensure that it supports a person’s needs. Learn more about communicating through behaviour and how to provide the best possible support in our workshop on ‘Understanding and Supporting Behaviour’

We would love to hear from you! Share your success stories with us!

Providing Accommodations for Access and Opportunity

Why do we provide accommodations? The simple answer…

To ensure everyone has access and opportunity to achieve success.

‘Accommodation’ and ‘adjustment’ are terms that we use when we talk about making an environment or a task more user friendly for a person – they’re terms that are often used when talking about disability or differences in learning/thinking or physical capabilities.

Accommodations are going to be different for each person (depending on their needs) but some of the more common that we suggest when supporting a person who may be unable to access an environment or task through the usual systems are;

* Modifying written and spoken information into plain language – avoid using complicated words or terms that may be difficult to understand or process. We want people to be able to engage and share, and using accessible language is part of this.

* Providing access to spaces at times that support a person’s ability to be organised and prepared – movement between classrooms and learning spaces is the perfect example of this, where we suggest accommodating early access to a locker to help with organising belongings for a class or to move through hallways before they become overwhelmingly noisy and busy.

* Providing quiet working spaces that support focus and the ability to concentrate on tasks – open plan spaces have become increasingly popular over recent years but it’s important that we understand that open plan doesn’t work for everyone, and that to enable everyone access to effective learning or working, we must also create spaces that cater for quiet and little distraction.

* Providing alternative options to handwriting – handwriting is not an easy task for all (it can be a physically painful process for some, and for some people the focus on handwriting can interfere with the thought process of ‘what to write’). With the technology that is now available to us, it is becoming easier all the time to provide accommodations for people who struggle with putting pen to paper – popular options include typing or ‘talk to text’ applications on devices.

Accommodations that can be made to support access and opportunity are endless – but the above are some ideas to start you thinking about your own environment.

Providing accommodations might require stepping outside of a system or a ‘usual’ way of doing things. It often means re-working a process or thinking a little outside the square so that tasks and environments can cater for different needs. But for our environments and communities to be accessible for all, and for opportunities for success to be available for all, they are something that we must be prepared to create and allow.

How do you provide accommodations to the people you support?

Providing Sensory Support

Part of establishing an environment that is accessible to the way in which everyone learns and functions, is ensuring that sensory support is in place.

What do we mean by sensory support?

Often when we talk about sensory support we are referring to the equipment, resources and strategies that support the way in which people process the world through their senses. Sensory support usually aims to either provide people with the ‘input’ that their bodies need or reduce the impact of ‘sensory assault’ on their bodies so that they can function at their best.

We commonly think of the five senses that are typically known – sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. But it’s also important to consider the senses of movement and balance.

A common problem that we hear, is that of how to support a person who is always ‘on the go’ and who never seems to be able to sit still or focus on a task. Some typical scenarios might be:

* the child who won’t sit on the mat during group time at preschool or school

* the teenager at school who is constantly moving out of their seat during class (or perhaps constantly swinging on their chair or seemingly ‘bouncing’ out of their chair)

* the adult who can’t stay still to complete a task (and who perhaps becomes frustrated or agitated when expected to)

These may well be typical cases of people who need more movement in their everyday activities – and by having their sensory need for more movement supported, they may then be better placed to function at their best.

So here are some ideas to support those who have the sensory need for movement:

* use exercise balls at desks instead of chairs (which allows for movement whilst sitting)

* give a person 15 or 20 minutes of intense running or jumping before you ask them to sit for a period of time – then repeat this as necessary (this time of intense activity may need to be longer, depending on the individual needs of the person)

* allow students to read or do other sedentary learning activities whilst pedaling on an exercise bike

* have regular physical movement breaks built in to daily schedules

* provide inflatable cushions (some people even suggest hot water bottles) for people to sit on or to have underneath feet that need to constantly move

The more we understand and provide for the sensory needs of the people we support, the better able and equipped they will be to achieve success. And we ALL deserve success!

How do you provide for the sensory needs of the people you support?

We’d love to hear your comments!

Setting Up the Environment For Success!

Providing support to someone on the spectrum means to provide the best possible foundations for them to flourish – you might even say it’s essential to their wellbeing.

When we’re planning to provide a supportive environment for someone on the Autism Spectrum, we need to be aware of and provide for their sensory needs, the impact of social interactions, cognitive processing time, their communication needs and routine and structure – for the purpose of this blog, we are focusing on routine and structure.

Routine and structure for a person on the spectrum is a necessity – the world around them is chaotic enough so knowing that their day is predictable and safe helps them to manage their world a little easier.

For someone on the spectrum, they need to know that their day to day structure is predictable and repetitive – after all, they create this world for themselves in the safety of their own home environment where repetitive, restricted play is their whole world.

For the classroom environment, we ensure that that there is structure and routine through planning and organising routines through the use of schedules, timetables and scripts and cue cards etc. Use of these supports provides for consistence within their daily activities and to also help manage any changes that may occur. Change is an unsettling experience for them and needs to be handled with care!

How do you create structure and routine into your environment? Please share your experiences with us! 🙂

Understanding the Person you Support

In our blog posts this month we’ll be focussing on creating environments and settings that best support people with autism / autistic people.

But before we begin to plan out strategies to support a person, we need to know ABOUT the person. Who are they? What are their characteristics? What makes the person tick? What do they find challenging in life?

Gathering this information is absolutely vital to making sure that any strategy you use is going to have the best chance of success. So where do you find this information?

Our starting point is always with the person. As much as we can, find out from them what they like and what they don’t like. Find out what bothers them or worries them. Find out what really motivates them to engage in the world around them.

In a school setting, we also begin with the student’s Individual Learning Plan (ILP), or any student profiles that already exist. These documents should provide a good overview of the person you are supporting – who they are, what their needs are, and what strategies might have been used in the past.

In any setting – school, community, workplace or home – it is important to look at the person’s reports or summaries from professionals (eg. speech therapist, occupational therapist, psychologist, paediatrician etc). These reports will most likely provide recommendations for support, or recommendations for further therapy or goals that are being worked towards.

From here, it’s also important that we look to parents and family members for their input. The insight that family members can give us in understanding the person we support is invaluable. They know the person from a perspective that we as educators, employers or support staff never will, and it’s often the small detail in the information that parents or family members provide that really makes the difference in how we best support the person.

Taking the time to understand the person you support is vital to success, so be sure to try and do it really well. The more thorough you are, the better you will be equipped in choosing the strategies you use for support.

Share with us! How do you get to know the people you support?

Please also feel free to contact us if you require assistance in information gathering, creating profiles or interpreting professional recommendations.

Goal Setting – Making it Realistic!

We all need something to inspire us or work towards that makes us happy, no matter how big or small!

For many of us, beginning a new year means changing classrooms, starting school, changing to a new school, beginning university or tertiary education or beginning a new job – setting goals need to be relevant to you and kept simple to ensure that you experience some success along the way!

In saying that, whatever it is that we want or need, has to be achievable – we set goals for ourselves within our limits, while making sure it’s not out of our reach – to make it realistic!

To ensure that the goals for yourself or the person you support, are realistic, you need to consider the following things:

* Timeframe – we all work at our own pace and some people do things quickly and others take time to work through each step. If you provide support to others, you need to allow for each individual’s own pace and help them along the way to achieve what they set out to do. It might mean breaking things down into smaller steps to reach their goal.

* Make it simple – we don’t want to over complicate things so it’s really important to help the person find just one or two goals that are important to them right now. Each goal might then be broken down into simple steps. One step at a time is achievable and allows for them to experience some success along the way.

* Be practical – When setting goals, you need to consider if it’s something that you need or want to learn and that it is relevant (is motivating to want to achieve). Goals are timely – often when you pick out your goals and begin to work on them, you may find others that crop up that need to be worked on too. It’s okay to reflect and start again if it means that it’s more practical.

* How to know when you’ve achieved the goal – Some goals take a little while to achieve and if broken down into many steps, could take some time. If it’s something that requires the use of visual aids/schedules or waiting/waiting in line, there will need to be plenty of opportunities for practise and praise for attempting these skills. When you feel that you are able to work at something on your own or feel more confident and independent, then it’s likely that you’ve achieved your goal.

What are your goals to begin the year? Have you considered what works for you?                           Share your story!

Preparing for the Year Ahead

How have you started to prepare for 2016?

Sometimes life gets really busy, and we get ourselves into routines and find ourselves using systems of support that we have outgrown or that simply may not be as effective as we had hoped.

January is a really great time to ‘take stock’ of what you’ve been doing up to this point and reflect on where things might go from here. It’s a chance to look closely at the year that has been and to think about how you might prepare for the months (and year) ahead – particularly when it comes to support strategies and any therapies for the person you support, your child, or yourself.

Some good questions to ask yourself might be:

– What worked really well for the person I was supporting (or for me or my child) over the past year?

– How do I know which strategies were successful? Did I see signs of enjoyment and personal growth in the person I was supporting?

– Would I do these things again this coming year? Or would I use similar strategies to build on experiences from last year?

And it’s also important to ask yourself questions such as:

– What didn’t work (over the past year) for the person I was supporting?

– Were there strategies that I tried, or therapies or support systems that just had no impact at all (or that perhaps had a negative impact of some kind)? Did I see signs of unhappiness with some of these things that I tried, or perhaps signs of being overwhelmed or frustrated?

– Did I feel overwhelmed myself with any of these processes?

– And if so, what can I learn from all of these experiences?

When preparing for the year ahead, it’s worthwhile making sure that we’re setting ourselves up for success, and not simply reliving experiences that we would rather not go through again.

So how do you go about preparing for a new year? We would love to hear! 🙂

It’s a New Year! … and so the Journey continues…

It’s a new year!

For many of us, a new year comes with expectation, excitement and hopes for wonderful things ahead. It’s an opportunity to leave behind the struggles of the year that has passed.

But what if the new year brings trepidation, or anxiety, or a sense of having to start all over again? If you are feeling this way, or someone you support is feeling this way, sometimes it’s important to remember that when the date clicks over to January 1, we simply continue our journey. It can be settling to remind ourselves that we are essentially still the same people that we were the day before.

Here at Creating Connections Australia, our team is looking forward to a year ahead of new learning and discovery – both personally and professionally.

For our team, autism is a huge part of what we all live everyday, and one thing that we know for sure is that it’s important to never think that you completely know autism (or any other neuro difference, for that matter). We know it’s important to constantly be open minded and to be prepared for a journey that will always involve learning and discovery. So we’re excited at what 2016 may bring in terms of new ideas and new discoveries for us!

Never completely know Autism

What is it that you are looking forward to this year?

And what is it that you are happy to bring with you from 2015?