I saw this picture on Facebook:
This is great awareness raising for people who don’t understand autism or behaviour to help them be mindful about things that could lead to distress for the person and behaviour that they will find challenging. But there are problems with the notion of behaviour being triggered.
From my perspective behaviour is not triggered. We select the quickest, easiest and most effective behaviour we have in our repertoire to get what we need. The triggers described here don’t trigger specific behaviours but signal that a reinforcement is available (and probably desperately needed in these situations). I’ll try and explain.
Noise = the reinforcement of escaping that noise is needed. So do you select to smash the noise in the face or run.
Proximity = reinforcement of escaping the proximity is needed. So do you punch them to make them go away, or make loud noises so they move
Change of routine = usually this means a sensory reinforcement needed, i.e. I need to express I am distressed/let these feelings of distress out and maybe you will help me escape the distress – which behaviour can I choose that will express this most effectively.
Being ignored = reinforcement of attention is needed, so do you pull your trousers down or hit the person they are paying attention to so as you are the focus of their attention.
If all we think about is triggers all we will think about is how do we avoid these triggers. How do you make sure a person never experienced noise? Without building a 1 meter bubble around people how do you avoid people being within that persons proximity? This approach leads to reducing what is in people’s lives rather than helping them to learn, develop and have more things in their lives.
The behaviours we choose when faced with these “triggers” depends on what we have learned or know works. If we think function and how do we help the person get to these functions better we will help the person to learn more behaviours that they can choose in these situations and give people more opportunities and get what they want better. We will stop just removing things from people’s lives and only having restrictive practices in our toolbox.
This is what it means when it is said PBS improves quality of life. Not the Positively Bull S**t of if we avoid all triggers we will have no challenges.