Being proactive means to address something before it happens, rather than waiting to react to something after it has already happened.

As a rule, I have found that most people are not proactive in their lives. It just seems to be human nature to react rather than plan ahead.  You see it in politics, health, education, business and any number of places. However, when it comes to working with children on the spectrum or those with any number of challenging behaviors, being proactive is a key to success.

Preventing negative behaviors before they occur is always favorable to having to manage them after the fact.  Here are a few reasons why:

  • It reduces the negative behaviors from occurring
  • It facilitates better relationships when adults/children are not in a constant battle
  • It increases a child’s ability to engage in appropriate behaviors when they are not being “managed” for inappropriate behaviors
  • It creates a more positive cycle of reinforcement and focuses everyone on the positive rather than negative (remember from an earlier blog that what you focus on you amplify)

Being proactive is usually a concept that most parents and teachers agree with, but don’t always find easy to do.  Some “simple” things to consider:

  • Catch your child engaged in appropriate behaviors and reinforce them. A phrase often used is, “Catch ‘em being good.”
  • Be specific in your reinforcement (e.g., “I like the way you put your books in your backpack for school tomorrow” instead of “good job”)
  • Implement sensory activities throughout the day that calm, organize or stimulate your child according to his/her needs.
  • Reward small steps towards achieving a goal; don’t just wait to reward the end product.
  • Eating healthy and exercising are ways to proactively have your child’s mind and body ready for the world.
  • Taking special time during the day to engage in desired activities/behaviors so they can be counted on to occur rather than just used to reinforce a behavior after the fact

Being proactive is not just something you do in therapy, school, or home; it is also done in research. One particular study I want to share with you is called The Early Autism Risk Longitudinal Investigations Network (EARLI). This study is going to follow 1200 mothers who have already had a child diagnosed with autism from the start of their next pregnancy and document that child’s development through the age of three. The study is designed to look at both environmental and genetic factors, something that can’t easily been done ‘after the fact.’

The study is being conducted in Southeast Pennsylvania, Northeast Maryland, and two sites in Northern California. You can read more about this study, who can participate, the investigators and research sites at this link The EARLI Study.