Task Avoidance - Screaming | Autism PDD


Thank you so much for all your advice. I have been running around the house snapping pics of various things in the house to print out for our new picture schedule. I want this one to be more like the one he goes by at school (M,W,F).

My philosophy with Chase has always been he will learn what we teach. My husband is more lax and thinks I push Chase too much to the point of frustration even. I guess the point I can't get across to my husband is while he is at work I have not been teaching him forty different things in one day. We have been working on one thing for two days in the free time we have.  Chase fights tooth and nail on everything so it could take us two days to master "shoes belong in the shoe closet". I feel like I am dragging him kicking and screaming through life, forceably teaching him basic skills.

When systematically analyzing the reasons why a challenging behavior is occuring, try the acronym TEASE:


T- is for Tangibles. To get food, obtain activities, get toys, or protect personal space.

E- is for Escape/Avoidance. Difficult tasks (bath time, hair cuts, picking up toys), change in routine, Interruption in a desired activity, avoid hugs, affection, or attention.

A- is for Attention. Obtain hugs, Parent Attention, Interactions from others.

S- is for Sensory (Self reinforcement or stimulation). Obtain sensory input, rocking, head banging, hand flapping, spinning somersaults, finger flicking, leg banging.

E- End of reasons. Meaning, once you find out the reason or function of the behavior, it can bring an end to it, or an end to your concern for it.


Source: logspot.com/search%3Fupdated-min%3D2005-01-01T00%253A00%253A 00-06%253A00%26updated-max%3D2006-01-01T00%253A00%253A00-06% 253A00%26max-results%3D14+%22social+story%22+%22change+in+ro utine%22&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=39

Norway Mom -- I am always AMAZED at what a font of information you are.  If you lived in the States, you could easily become a BCBA or a special ed advocate.  We sure could use you!

My son is 16.  There were no ABA programs when he was young enough to need them.  I got tons of parent training in how to approach teaching a child with autism by getting parent training written into our son's IEP. It's pretty easy in NY to do that since it's provided for in a special section of our state regs that just covers autism. It's available in EVERY state, it's just not officially codified in the law, so you have to make individual arguments for parent training. I also went to tons and tons of workshops.  I also use an organization website for SAHM's to get organized myself and the woman there uses what we would call graphic organizers to help us.  She just calls it getting into a routine.  My success using her methods gave me ideas of how to help my son learn using her methods. For more specific special ed info on graphic organizers, just google them. You are using one right now if you're using  picture/icon checklist with your son.  Keep it simple.  If you're having trouble still, lessen the demands to one and work up.  BTW, the website for SAHM's is www.flylady.net


tzoya, do you have any advice that might help with this for Sharlet, I don't have access to behavior modification, or parent training at all.  (except a small amount of ABA for a large amount of money, but I'm not too keen to do that)
She is non compliant and thrashes when on the floor.  It's getting so bad that the carers at the child care center where she goes are saying that if I can't improve it, she might not be able to stay

What you should attempt to do over the course of a weekend at home is to keep an ABC list.  Antecedent, Behavior, Consequence.  You must do this as objectively as possible.  Note a behavior (screaming).  Then immediately put down ANYTHING that happened immediately before the screaming and what happened immediately after the screaming started.  Don't try to interfere with the screaming, just observe (this is difficult, but necessary). Don't try to analyze what's going on until the end of the weekend.  At that point, look at what will most likely be a long ABC list.  Try to see if there is a pattern.  YOu may discover that Sharlet screams to escape complying. You might discover that she screams when she wants attention.  You might find that her screams are due to negative sensory input. Your planned reaction will be different based on what the FUNCTION of her behavior is.  For example, if she's been screaming in order to get your attention, GIVING her attention for the screaming will just reinforce the screaming behavior. You have to plan to reinforce her for NOT screaming but paying attention to her for quiet behavior.  Find moments when she's quiet and give her your undivided attention then.  Plan this.  Reinforce, reinforce, reinforce the behavior you WANT to have continue.  Tell her "good quiet."  Give her a primary reinforcer (generally food) if you want to REALLY reinforce.  COMPLETELY IGNORE SCREAMING.  Of course, this is if you find that the screaming is for attention. Don't ASSUME it is.  Analyze that ABC data first.  Once you find out what positive reinforcement techniques work with Sharlet at home, you can show the daycare people.  Speak with them about this. It might take awhile. If they know you're working on an answer and will be willing to share it with them once you find it, they might be patient.  The KEY to behavior modification is ONLY positive reinforcement.  Skinner discovered DECADES ago that "differential reinforcement" is the most powerful. That means not reinforcing each and every time. When punishment is used, the ONE TIME punishment is not given, is a POWERFUL positive reinforcer.  So when a parent does not punish a behavior that is not seen but still done, that reinforces the behavior big time. That is why punishment works poorly with ASD kids. Google Skinner if you want to learn about the history and foundation of Behavior Modification.  ABA is the way behavior modification has evolved in the autism world. To learn practical ways to use ABA for all kinds of things, not just skill building, get Catharine Maurice's book.  I think it's called EDUCATING YOUNG CHILDREN WITH AUTISM.

My son's the same way--has to be on his terms. Our BSC is working
wonderings...having worked with him directly and given us tips.

Hope this helps!

This sounds like an exact description of sharlet when she doesn't want to do something.  we haven't really figured out a way to get her to do things she doesn't want to yet, so I am going to keep an eye on the answers you get.
CAS' mum, what is a BSC?

My son is almost 9, and still engages in task avoidance, but it's much better compared to age 4.  Everything was a fight then, but I realize now that a lot of his resistance was sensory avoidance -- common care/hygiene activities like getting dressed, applying lotion, clipping nails, and washing hair, were sensory nightmares for him.

Trouble making transitions is behind a lot of incidents of task avoidance at our house, and we sometimes use a timer to help transition.  "When the timer goes off, you have to stop playing your computer game and come for snack."

Task avoidance is also sometimes because the demands are overwhelming.  For example, we had a lot of trouble with homework when we were trying to make him do the same level work as the rest of his mainstream class.  He was more cooperative when homework was at the level he could master.

To deal with task avoidance, you can try to maximize success by setting clear and attainable demands/expectations, plus use a lot of reinforcement for good behavior.

The following article talks about "inflexible-explosive" autistic children, and their problems with transitions, sensory issues, etc.  It points out that most of the time when a child is agitated, it all started with a refusal to do something.  Eventually, a meltdown can ensue.  Worth reading, IMO.


Good luck with everything.

It's called "non-compliance" and it really needs to be dealt with through a good, positive behavior intervention plan with parent training to learn how to implement and adjust the plan. Learning behavior modification techniques and also learning the FUNCTION of your son's behavior thru an FBA is key.  Rewarding compliance works over time.  Ignoring negative reactions COMPLETELY also works. Using these two techniques will result in better behavior, but not overnight.  For many children, these behaviors are their way of getting SOME control in what they see as an uncontrollable world.  Their communication issues are so severe, that negative behaviors are often their ONLY way to communicate. Your task will be to help him substitute other forms of communication. ABA and PECS can help immensely in this regard.Thanks tzoya

You got perfect advice from everyone...just wanted to add link below that you can copy and print out as it explains alot about what to do.  We done this with Sarah  with lots of positive reinforcements for any good calming and complaince:) It is hard work to do but the rewards will last a lifetime if he GETS it now...it is easier than at age 10 or more



My son Chase will turn four in less than a week. He was diagnosed PDD last year, his main delay being speech. The only real ongoing issue we have besides potty training is some type of power struggle. If Chase decides it's something he wants to do, he does it. If we suggest that it's time to eat, dress, go potty whatever the situation, he screams and throws himself on the floor in an all out tantrum. Even if we hand him a toy he dearly loves the first thing he does is throw it and scream, though when we ignore his behavior eventually he will go pick it up and play with it. Everything has to be on his terms. It seems we can't find a common ground. His pre school teacher says most of the time he cooperates without much fuss at school. I like to think I am fairly consistant with Chase but there are times I do give in for both our sanity. 

I would like to know if this sounds like a behavioral problem we should discuss with a behavioral therapist or if anyone else is going through the same thing and has any suggestions.

I so feel your pain.  My son was by far his worse between 3.5-4.5 years old.  I truly believe this was a result of his greater awareness of the world around him coupled with his inability to express himself verbally.  It's almost as if they recognize the need to communicate verbally, but don't have the words, so frustration ensues.  I also think my son's "terrible two's" period didn't kick in until about this time...he was really pretty easy prior to age 3.5. 

I think a behavioral therapist can definitely help in this area (wish I'd had one then....we didn't get an autism diagnosis until my son was 4.5).  At a minimum, you might want to develop a visual schedule for him.  This can definitely help with transitions, anticipating future events, etc.  This has a way of taking you out of the equation, and making the schedule the "bad guy" (i.e., "hey, look, the schedule says it's now time for lunch", etc).  Also, we used little tricks like handing him the remote to turn off the tv himself so he felt he was in control, giving him choices (i.e. you can either get dressed by yourself or mommy can help you....you choose, etc.).  It's pretty common for NT kids to push the limits at this age as well, so you're probably seeing the culmination of a perfect storm.

I will say, once we started ABA with my son, and his language kicked in, the behaviors came to a halt.  I kind of feel like I got my child back.  It was a rough year, but we did survive.  Hang in there, it will get better. 


We went through the same problems with our daughter...seems like she was having the "terrible twos" at four...went through screaming, thrashing tantrums, hitting the teachers, and even throwing a chair at the daycare...we found that ABA as well as a visual schedule and timer indicating it was soon time to move onto the next thing seemed to really help-transitions were quite tough for a while...as she ages (will be 6 this year), it gets better (no real need for the visual and timer anymore), however, it was a long road to get there....she is much more verbal, and while she still tantrums from time to time, at least she can express a little more instead of "falling apart".  She goes though a summer program specifically for PDD children, where it is all out ABA, and that really seemed to help her a lot...best of luck with the methods you choosed, and keep us posted on how things are for you!

I think it's important to limit what your goals are at any one time.  Get those things down pat so the child (and you) feels successful before you move on.  For example, focus on putting the shoes away every day before you add another job to the routine.  Then add another job and make sure the shoes STILL get put away. Keep adding slowly (like one thing a month) until he reaches the goal of being fully independent in what you would like him to do. Of course, you have to LAVISH praise on him for success.

Since you are making tons of photos, my guess is that you ARE going to be expecting him to do too many things at once.  There's a website that I've frequented in the past that is supposed to help SAHM's get organized. The recommendation there (and this is for NT adults) is to start out with 2 or 3 things that are on your daily routine list and do them the same time and in the same way every day. Then, after a month of success, add one more thing.  This TOTALLY works. If you are planning on snowing your child with a column of pictures of things for him to do, he'll be overwhelmed.  Start the same way. With 2 or 3 pictures.  Add new ones SLOWLY over time.  The idea is to create success and independence, not overwhelm and frustration.

Of course, you may already be planning to do this and I may have misconstrued what you're planning. 



 tzoya, thank you. You caught me before I made a huge boo-boo! I have now reduced the schedule from twelve things I thought were important to basic meal/potty/snack times. You are so right, to introduce the schedule with a host of activities would be overwhelming for him. I don't know why I overlooked this. Start basic and gradually add the others. DUH, MOMMY...

I've been reading about ABA programs. Who helps you put together one that is right for your child? Can it be carried out at home and preschool so there is no break in routine?

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