I know as both a parent of a child with autism – as well as a medical professional and a behavior analyst – how confusing problem behaviors are in children with autism. There are a lot of things going on when your child is newly diagnosed or having unusual problem behaviors. Especially if it involves potential medical complications. I found over the years that keeping an autism data collection method – like a separate calendar – is the best way to keep track. You can track problem behaviors, medical issues, doctor’s appointments, allergy shots, and any kind of medical treatment you’re going to try.
Hi, I’m Dr. Mary Barbera, autism mom, Board Certified Behavior Analyst, and bestselling author. Each week I provide you with some of my ideas about turning autism or signs of autism around. So if you haven’t subscribed to my YouTube channel, you can do that now.
I have calendars dating back for years and I have graphs of problem behaviors for many, many years too. A lot of times, this has really helped us make strides to figure out if problem behaviors were related to medical conditions.
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Why Do You Need a Calendar?
Lucas, in addition to having autism, an intellectual disability, and speech and language disorder, also has a few medical diagnoses, including PANDAS or pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder associated with strep. He also has an autonomic nervous system dysfunction which he takes medication to treat. So that autonomic nervous system dysfunction was causing Lucas to have problem behaviors related to being startled or having headaches and pain of any sort.
It took me years and years to find all of this out, as I needed to collect data. So, I want to save you the time and struggle that I went through. Using a calendar is an autism data collection method that I highly recommend. It’s great if you’re a parent of any child with any medical problem, if you yourself have medical issues, or if you have students with autism. Don’t just jot down notes in a journal. It’ll be too hard to figure out. Think of it like a data sheet and track progress in your child or clients. Record the behavioral data as well as antecedent behavior. The calendar is your data collection system as well as your frequency count.
How to Use a Calendar
We use Lucas’s calendar for his staff that comes in, too. We use a pencil to keep track of who’s watching him. Then we use a red pen to keep track of any medical issues, problem behaviors (such as self injurious behavior & aggression), and medicine. Calendars are also good for keeping track of work tasks. So I can look back and see that on July 24th, he had agitation. He was given Motrin. I can see that he had a doctor’s appointment on the 18th of July. He had an allergy shot on July 20th. We have noticed, because of my data, that headaches and problem behaviors tend to come up when he’s due for an allergy shot, for instance.
I can bring my calendar to a doctor’s appointment so that we can adjust medication if needed. I can keep track right in my calendar if I’m trying any new supplements or any new treatments. It can help me make data-based decisions for Lucas. I’ve also had clients with kids with problem behaviors related to sleep. You can track their sleep, bedtime, how long it took to fall asleep if they woke up in the middle of the night, and if they tried any medication for sleeping.
There is so much you can do with a calendar, but as a Registered Nurse, I would say if you or your child are having any medical problems, get a dedicated calendar for that child or for yourself and keep careful record because only you are going to be the detective needed to solve some of these issues. For my fellow Board Certified Behavior Analysts – recommend calendars to your clients.
The autism data collection method of using a calendar and keeping track of medication, issues, and patterns will help you and your team help the child reach his fullest potential. For more information on taking data and autism, my free 3 Step Guide at marybarbera.com/join. If you are interested in using the calendar method, let me know below. I want to know how that works out for you.
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