Positive Behaviour Strategies to Support Children and Young People with Autism


Martin Hanbury

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    This book is dedicated to Theresa O'Donovan

    About the Author

    Martin Hanbury is headteacher of Landgate School, Bryn a specialist school for pupils with autism in Norfh-West England. Martin has worked with people with autism for over twenty years in a variety of roles including carer, play worker, teaching assistant, teacher and school manager. He is currently collaborating with a range of agencies in the development of services for people with autism in his locality and serves on the National Autistic Society's Accreditation Programme as a team member, team leader and panel member.

    Martin holds Masters' degrees in Special Education, Educational Management and Research Methodology and a PhD focusing on Educational Leadership. He works as a Regional Tutor on the University of Birmingham's Webautism Programme and is Associate Tutor with the University of Edge Hill, contributing to their Professional Development Programmes focusing on Autistic Spectrum Disorders.

    Having published Educating Pupils with Autistic Spectrum Disorders: A Practical Guide in 2005, Martin provides training programmes focusing on a range of issues related to Autistic Spectrum Disorders, particularly in the area of challenging behaviour.


    Over the last decade the number of books available to support the understanding of individuals on the autistic spectrum has soared. For parents, family and practitioners to develop their understanding, it is essential that the investment of time in reading results in practical advice that influences practice. This book fills this need.

    Having worked with the author for a number of years and experienced first hand his work with children and young people across the autistic spectrum, I can recommend the theory and the strategies included in this book as tried and tested. The case studies sprinkled into the body of the text provide a clear focus on the need to address individual needs with a person-centred approach. Martin's commitment to improving the lives of individuals on the autistic spectrum by supporting the whole person, the family and carers as well as the professionals supporting the child is evident in the chapters of this book.

    The author helps the reader to understand the world as seen through the eyes of the child with autism, pointing out the complexity of the condition where there are no quick fixes to apply. It is through the commitment and tenacity of parents and professionals that positive steps forward can be achieved.

    Chapter 1 provides the backdrop of understanding for autism and a working definition of challenging behaviour, reminding us that the behaviour has an impact on those supporting the child as well as the child him/herself We are reminded in Chapter 2 that it is only through collaborative work that information can be shared and support provided consistently. The following chapters provide a balance of theory and practical strategies to improve the opportunities for the child. This includes an overview of the optimum learning environment and how this can be achieved.

    Throughout the book useful tables, diagrams and proformas are provided for use by the practitioner. Models of each are given to broaden the understanding of their use. Each chapter ends with key points, drawing the theory and practice together in summary.

    The final chapter addresses the issue of mutual support; family to family, professional to family and professional to professional. It includes an appendix that draws this point out by providing training materials and useful information for raising awareness on the issue of positive behaviour strategies for people with autism.

    Accessible, easy to understand, based on sound experience, this book is a valuable part of the tool kit for all practitioners and parents supporting children and young people on the autistic spectrum.

    FrancineBrower, Regional Co-ordinator (North), National Autistic Society


    The field of autism is populated by a unique and special type of person. Individuals who experience the condition and the families and practitioners who support them are defined by qualities which mark them out from the crowd. We should celebrate their contribution to the richness and diversity of the communities around them and recognise the importance of the perspectives they offer.

    In my years working with individuals with autism I have learnt something new every day simply because there is so much to be learnt. For this, I must thank the many individuals with autism who have allowed me to work alongside them and discover all I can about this complex condition. I must also thank the dedicated and courageous families and colleagues I have been fortunate enough to work with and who have guided me throughout my career.

    Special thanks goes to the pupils, parents, staff team and Governing Body of Landgate School, Bryn, for their enthusiasm for learning and unstinting support.

    Finally, I must thank Megan, Timothy, Patrick and Francis for their questions, insight and encouragement.

  • Appendix to Chapter 6: Training Materials

    The following training materials are intended to provide people supporting individuals with autism and challenging behaviour with a number of options for developing practice within their organisations.

    The content of the programme is arranged as eight discrete sessions which cover each of the major themes explored in this book and is intended to offer an overview of autism and the basic principles governing our understanding of behaviour support. While the structure presented relates closely to the schedule proposed in Table 6.1, people using these materials must use their own discretion in deciding how best to meets the needs of the context they are operating in.

    People leading training may photocopy the following pages to offer handouts to others, use the content to produce slides on acetates or copy the content into PowerPoint presentations. The content may be supplemented with other ideas and suggestions drawn from this book or any other source in order to meet specific requirements in particular places.

    Critically, people leading training need to carefully consider the pace with which they address the concepts presented among these training materials and ensure as far as is possible that a sound awareness and understanding of key issues has been reached.


    behaviour management: an approach to challenging behaviour which is suggestive of one person controlling another person's behaviour through a series of externally imposed factors.

    behaviour support: an approach to challenging behaviour which enables individuals to develop behaviour patterns which are productive and fulfilling for that individual.

    central coherence: the natural predisposition people have to place information into a context in order to give it meaning.

    executive function: the mechanism which enables us to move our attention from one activity or object to another flexibly and easily.

    flexibility of thought: the capacity to think in ways which enable us to solve problems and alter our perspectives according to information we receive.

    functional analysis: an effort to understand behaviour as a function of the context in which it occurs through an examination of the dynamic interplay of environment, interpersonal relationships and individuals' needs.

    improved lifestyle options: an approach which enhances an individual's experience of life.

    incident-specific strategies: approaches towards challenging behaviour which address present and immediate concerns.

    inclusion: the notion of involving all people regardless of their difference in all aspects of society.

    longitudinal data: information which is gathered over a prolonged period of time.

    low arousal: an approach which consciously reduces the amount of stimuli a person experiences.

    medical intervention: any intervention designed by healthcare professionals.

    mindblindness: a term used to describe the condition which emanates from the inability of people with autism to appreciate other people's mental states.

    Motivation Assessment Scale: a schedule of sixteen items which examine the conditions under which identified behaviour occurs, thereby providing an insight into the needs which are driving the behaviour.

    optimum learning conditions: the condition under which an individual is most likely to learn effectively and enduringly.

    person-centred planning: an approach towards providing holistic support for individuals with disability.

    physical environment: the fabric, furnishings and fittings of an environment.

    prevalence of autism: the overall number of people with autism within the population.

    proactive strategies: positive and ethically sound interventions which are designed to pre-empt the occurrence of challenging behaviour.

    rewards: items, objects or activities which an individual finds motivating and attractive.

    social communication: the broad variety of ways in which people exchange ideas and information.

    social environment: the people and relationships which exist around an individual.

    social understanding: the ability to appreciate the subtle and complex social rules by which society is governed.

    theory of mind: the capacity to appreciate that other people have mental states which differ from our own.

    token systems: any number of items which can be collected in order to earn a reward.

    triad of impairments: a conceptual model which presents autism as a condition in which individuals experience marked disability in three key domains.

    Further Reading

    Baron-Cohen, S. (1995) Mindblindness: An Essay on Autism and Theory of Mind, Bradford Books, London.
    Bogdashina, O. (2003) Sensory Perceptual Issues in Autism and Asperger Syndrome: Different Sensory Experiences – Different Perceptual Worlds, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, London.
    Durand, V. M. and Crimmins, D. B. (1992) The Motivation Assessment Scale Administration Guide, Monaco Associates, Topeka, KS.
    Emerson, E. (2001) Challenging Behaviour: Analysis and Intervention in People with Severe Intellectual Disabilities, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
    Frith, U. (1989) Autism: Explaining the Enigma, Basil Blackwell, Oxford.
    Happe, F. (1994) Autism: An Introduction to Psychological Theory, UCL Press, London.
    Jordan, R. and Powell, S. (1995) Understanding and Teaching Children with Autism, John Wiley, Chichester.
    LaVigna, G. W. and Donnellan, A. M. (1986) Alternatives to Punishment: Solving Problems with Non-aversive Strategies, Irvington Publishers, New York.
    Norman, D. and Shallice, T. (1980) ‘Attention to action: willed and automatic control of behaviour’, In Consciousness and Self-regulation, Vol. 4 (ed. Davidson, R., Schwartz, G. and Shapiro, D.), Plenum Press, New York.
    United Nations (1948) Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UNESCO, Paris.
    Whitaker, P. (2001) Challenging Behaviour and Autism, The National Autistic Society, London.
    Wing, L. (1996) The Autistic Spectrum, Constable and Robinson, London.
    Wing, L. and Gould, J. (1979) ‘Severe impairments of social interaction and associated abnormalities in children: epidemiology and classification’, Journal of Autism and Childhood Schizophrenia, 9, 11–29.

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