Early Interventions in Rocking Behaviours of Children With Autism

This paper provides an insight of the available behavioral interventions of improving learning outcomes of children with rocking behaviors. The provision of education opportunities to children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) in inclusive settings has been rising over the past decade. Stereotypical and repetitive behaviors manifested by ASD children have been identified as among factors interfering with their participation and performance in schools. Such behaviors include flapping of their arms and rocking, which interferes with functional activities related to self-care, domestic tasks, community involvement, and social interaction with other children and adults. Besides reducing the learning rate, they also restrict the environment where the affected children are welcome. There have been efforts to develop interventions for stereotypical behaviors. The most commonly used interventions include: use of contingent shock, differential reinforcement, and non contingent delivery of highly preferred stimuli. Recently there has been emergence of self monitoring techniques to decrease the stereotypical behaviors that actively involve the affected children. This paper reviews the literature available to ascertain whether these identified strategies and techniques improve the educational outcomes for rocking children in early interventions centers in inclusive settings. The reviewed literature provides a strong positive relationship between early interventions in schools and improved learning outcomes for children with rocking behaviors. As a research strategy, it provides a combination of both qualitative and quantitative research paradigms with a more emphasis of the qualitative paradigm in analyzing the data. A sample of ASD children with rocking behaviors, their parents and teachers will be involved in the study.

Review of related Literature

The transition from the traditional interventions that were family centered to early interventions services at pre-schools has seen improvements in the educational outcomes for children with ASD (Boulware et al., 2006). An example of such intervention has been the Developmentally Appropriate Treatment for Autism (DATA).

The model basis its interventions work on provision of high-quality and inclusive early childhood programs for ASD children from 0- 3 years. It offers inclusive playgroup experiences, parent support groups, a school-wide parent education group, and family resource coordination services to identified families. They conducted an inclusive playgroup study that involved more than 200 children from 0- 7 years in integrated early interventions and early childhood special education classrooms. The playgroup consisted of five toddlers with identified disabilities and five toddlers without disabilities. The study noted that teaching within inclusive contexts increases the ability of ASD children to learn and demonstrate skills. All the involved children had made gains during the time of the program. They had moved from atypically regulatory behaviors to typically regulatory behaviors. There was an improvement in their abilities to engage with the environment, react to stimuli, and improve self control. Further studies have recommended use of Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI) for children with Pervasive Developmental Disorders for positive educational outcomes (Butter et al., 2006). This method of early intensive behavioral intervention using applied behavior analysis (ABA) has received a lot of attention through research and writing as an intervention choice for autism and consequently, seen by many parents and professionals as a standard treatment for autism. The procedure for EIBI involves prescriptions of methodologies in teaching autistic children and the content for learning (Mirenda et al., 2010). The teaching methods researched on by ABA for over than 60 years include use of the reinforced practice, functional analysis, and single case experimental designs (Ferry, 2011). The curriculum is comprehensive and individualized to address the manifested varying symptoms of autism that range from language delays, impaired social interactions, to repetitive and restricted behaviors. The EIBI study involved eight participants (children) previously diagnosed with Autistic Disorder and mental retardation with pre-treatment general IQ scores being at or below a standard score. The findings after the treatment showed apparent increases in IQ scores with at least a 20 point gain in IQ over a period of 3-4 years of an intensive behavioral intervention. There was a general gains in adaptive behavior with all the children, except one, obtaining adaptive behavior standard scores within the average range, above the standard score. Academically, all of the children obtained average scores of academic achievement after the treatment, suggesting increased educational outcomes. A study by Chen and the group on children with ASD who present themselves with a high level of rote memory skills and visual spatial processing is another evidence of improvements in children with rocking behaviors if put to early interventions (Chen et al., 2008). The research findings showed a close relationship between restricted and repetitive behaviors with superior performance presenting a probable relationship between cognitive style and repetitive behaviors. Some repetitive behaviors may be used by individuals with autism as a defense mechanism to manage their abnormal sensory processing (Richler et al., 2010). Thus, in summary, it has been suggested that there are relationships between some sensory processing abnormalities seen in ASD and the presence of restricted and repetitive behaviors. The main purpose of this study was to investigate whether restricted and repetitive behaviors and sensory processing abnormalities are associated with a detail-focused cognitive style in young people with ASD. Juliet and Whalon in 2008 discussed a number of strategies to aid the participation and learning of children with ASD in inclusive settings. They suggested a need to provide a favorable learning environment for ASD children. The most efficient and direct way to actively engage students, and therefore positively impact their learning outcomes, is to adapt the classroom environment to meet the students’ needs. This involves examining the amount of time dedicated to instruction, level of student engagement, quality and clarity of directions for a task based on student performance. There is self maintenance that requires pupils to keep a record of their own behaviors’ and reward themselves whenever they execute an appropriate behavior. The use of graphic organizers is a strategy that is likely to succeed in developing educational abilities in ASD children. These are visual aids that are used to present abstract ideas and concepts by concrete depictions. They help students to generate, organize, and record their ideas, make connections among those ideas, and this improves conceptual understanding of abstract ideas by students. There is use of Visual cues which involves use of physical representations of content with concrete characteristics that can enhance comprehension. Visual supports aid ASD learners in maintaining the learning process and clarification of ideas. Learners should be involved in task selection and variation for maximum learning. Active participation through task selection ensures that their interests are taken care of hence reducing chances of problematic behaviors. Therefore, carefully attend to the child’s favored activities and modify the schedule of tasks accordingly. The use of planned activity routines in learning encourages participation and interaction of students with ASD in academic activities. Teachers and students should be actively involved in discussions, question and answer sessions during the teaching process. This ensures that all the learners are actively involved in the learning process. Priming is another strategy that works well with ASD children. It involves exposing ASD children to learning activities before they engage in them with their peers in an inclusive class. This allows the students to interact with the new content in a context free of the pressure to perform. This makes them act as experts when the content is introduced to the class as a whole. Collaboration with families and school professionals is another strategy that increases the educational outcomes of ASD children. To adequately meet the varying needs of autistic children, collaboration is critical. The contributions of each player, particularly parents, offer a unique perspective on the child and bring individual expertise to developing appropriate individualized education program goals, as well as instructional techniques to help children with ASD meet set targets. In summary use of specific learning strategies in inclusive classrooms improves the educational outcomes of ASD children (Juliet & Whalom, 2008). Joosten and Bundy (2010) in their study showed evidence that the use of extrinsic and intrinsic motivation improves stereotypical behaviors of autistic children. Understanding motivations behind the behaviors has led to developing interventions based on altering the environment, improving communication, altering social demands, and changing the behaviors of the teachers and guardians working with these children. In their earlier study they had looked and documented the causes of the stereotypical behaviors like rocking (Joosten & Bundy, 2008). Among the identified causes were sensory processing disorders which were linked to the stereotypical behaviors in children with ASD and anxiety of children with ASD. Understanding the sources of the anxiety enables coming up with interventions to prevent or minimize the emergence of repetitive behaviors. A thorough study by Carr and the group on a remedy for a 4 year boy who had repetitive behaviors showed a positive correlation between early interventions and corrected behaviors (Rapp et al., 2004). The boy was put in several sessions i.e. controlled video sessions, uncontrolled, a movie session, a mirror session, and in an environment without any stimulus. Analysis of the observations showed that the young boy preferred actions in which he was involved. This is consistent with results of other studies that indicated that individuals engaged in body rocking prefer to control the rate at which they rock there bodies. This means for an intervention to yield maximum learning outcomes the autistic children should be given an opportunity to engage in the learning process (Bodyfish, 2011). In a study of a 12 year old led by Shabani, research findings supported use of early interventions for rocking children (Shabani et al., 2001). Larry who was put to therapy training showed great improvement under the therapy. Larry before the training could rock during a mean of 64% of intervals when sitting and reading and 83% of intervals when standing and sitting. And after the training, the repetitive behavior had reduced to a mean of 4%of intervals while sitting and 2% of intervals while standing. Larry’s teacher was trained on the implementation strategy. The teacher later reported reduced rocking at classroom environment. It managed to reduce the frequency of rocking in classroom and hence successfully maintained low levels of rocking. Discrimination training and self monitoring has been used to effective reduce autistic rocking behavior of children with autism.

Gaps and Conclusion

In most the studies reviewed above they tend to use a small sample size that cannot allow generalizations of the resulting findings to the entire group of autistic children. Again, the emphasis in most of the studies are on autism and not rocking a research gap this current study will attempt to fill by documenting comprehensive data on strategies for effective teaching of children with rocking behaviors. All the reviewed literature presents research findings that were done in special learning units or schools with controlled factors including the provision of student teacher ratio of about 1: 2. The research findings could be more reliable if the settings could be in inclusive settings where the interventions are badly needed.

In conclusion, the above articles present an enormous amount on ASD with strategies on dealing with the challenges of teaching autistic children in the classroom. However, the qualitative approach adopted by most of these studies without a control sample means a limitation on whether the findings presented were as a result of normal growth for the selected children. There are no studies of girls as the two studies following the individual growth of identified clients dealt with boys affected with ASD alone. This presents a challenge as contribution of girls to such studies is missed with emphasis is only given to boys. Many of the interventions discussed in most of the articles are broadly applied for autism and few studies have specifically documented interventions for rocking behaviors. Lastly, the selection process in most of the reviewed studies relied more on volunteer parents and children and maybe the less affected ASD children were involved hence compromising the real results if the sampling techniques were to be more scientific.

The following research questions will be used to guide this study:

  • Is the Intelligent Quotient (IQ) of ASD children with rocking behaviors significantly different from those of ‘normal’ children in inclusion classes?
  • Do parents of ASD with rocking behaviors have any role to play in coming up with an effective learning intervention for their affected children?
  • What are some of the factors that facilitate a favorable learning environment for children with rocking behaviors in inclusive settings?

This will be an exploratory study set to establish the interventions available for classroom teachers in inclusive settings to improve the educational outcomes of ASD children. To adequately provide the necessary insights, there is a need to involve all the stakeholders in providing educational opportunities to ASD children. This study will set to collect data from the following respondents: parents, ASD children, peers of ASD children in inclusive settings, teachers and counselors involved in training these affected children. Parents of ASD children are chosen because of the range of characteristics inherent among ASD children. A training session will be made for those parents whose ASD children will be involved for a continuous study period of over than 6 months. This will ensure that parents guide the learning process and hence reliable results are recorded. They will provide the history of the conditions, the management of the conditions in homes and the level of training they have received to enhance appropriate care for ASD children. ASD children will be sampled to be part of the respondents as they represent the core informants for the research. The study will involve ASD children specifically with rocking behaviors below the age of eight years. The identification process of the these ASD children with rocking behaviors will be done by professional counselors working with these children and by senior distinguished university professors to ensure the real representation of the study sample. They will provide information on the current state of affairs in inclusion classrooms, and best possible strategies for effective learning. Given their status some will only be involved in some controlled interventions strategies by experts. Teachers and counselors will be respondents as they are always responsible for the learning of these children on a daily basis. There will a selection of a number of ASD children with rocking behaviors to act as a control experiment for the involved ASD children. The peers of ASD children will also be part of the participants as they are exposed to the teaching techniques and therefore can report the feelings of the classes and the best possible interventions to ensure effective learning.

The selected sample will be divided accordingly to groups to respond to research instruments. Some of the ASD children will sit in for a pre- intelligent test and a post intelligent test after the interventions behaviors. Others will be under observation with specific behaviors being scored for analysis later. The parents of ASD children with rocking behaviors will be interviewed to provide insights of the learning trend of their children. They will also fill a carefully prepared questionnaire to illicit the required information on the available possible strategies for effective learning for ASD children. Teachers that put to practice most of the interventions on a daily basis will be interviewed for collection of relevant information on learning interventions. They will also fill a questionnaire which will substantiate the information collected by interviews. The current study will adopt both qualitative and quantitative paradigms in the collection of data. Qualitative methods will be used since it does not only allow the collection of data for subjective interpretation by the researcher, but also supplement the information recorded through quantitative methods. Intensive probing will lead to the discovery of more information on the available interventions behaviors for rocking behaviors of ASD children. Quantitative techniques will be used to validate and strengthen the qualitative data obtained. Thus to ensure the richness of data collected, the study will combine both quantitative and qualitative techniques to explore whether there are better behavior interventions in teaching rocking ASD children. The data will be analyzed according to the set objectives of the investigation. The researcher will use both qualitative and quantitative data synthesis and analysis techniques. Qualitative data analysis involves organizing, accounting for and explaining the data. The process of data synthesis will be carried out systematically from transcription, familiarization, content analysis, and presentation. Content analysis will enable the researcher to select the relevant information from the documents. This will entail a thorough review of the documents in relation to the study objectives before recording relevant descriptive notes along the study theme. The quantitative data mainly from the questionnaire will first be coded according to defined categories and themes related to the study objectives. They will then be tallied, with frequencies, converted to percentages when necessary and presented in tabular and graphic forms. It is then through this that it will be possible to outline and summarize the collected data showing the available learning interventions for ASD children with rocking behaviors.


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ChalkyPapers. "Early Interventions in Rocking Behaviours of Children With Autism." April 15, 2023. https://chalkypapers.com/early-interventions-in-rocking-behaviours-of-children-with-autism/.