Addressing the Challenging Behavior of Children with High-Functioning Autism / Asperger Syndrome in the Classroom

Author(s) Moyes, Rebecca A
Publisher London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Published 2002
Pages 154
ISBN 1843107198
Reviewed by George Head
Faculty of Education, University of Glasgow
Review published 1 December 2004

The strengths of this book lie in three areas: firstly, the author's emphatic argument on the need to understand why children behave the way they do; secondly in her comprehensive account of the behaviours displayed by children with autism and how to address them; and in the final chapter where Moyes argues the need to evaluate for effectiveness.

The book is subtitled 'A Guide for Teachers and Parents' and therein lies its significance, particularly for teachers, who could easily pick up this book and run with it. A sample behaviour support sheet that is compiled progressively, building on the content of the chapter, accompanies each chapter, lucidly written with the avoidance of unnecessary jargon. Thereby, Moyes gently guides her reader through the practical aspects of constructing and evaluating an effective behaviour support programme. In addition, Moyes makes judicious use of tables, pictures and diagrams to illustrate the points made throughout her text. One criticism here might be that the support plan exemplar is too comprehensive and that the example followed is too full. Indeed, teachers who are new to her methodology might want to simplify the detail concerning behaviour and response for their own use.

Moyes' main argument is that the problem behaviour exhibited by children with Autism / Asperger should be understood 'as a form of communication'. In chapter 3 she offers ten hypotheses for problem behaviour, each explained and exemplified as a form of (mis-)communication. In chapter 4, she offers a comprehensive range of strategies for addressing each of her hypotheses. Other chapters deal with a collaborative approach to building a support plan, and the use of rewards, motivators and consequences. On the surface, this may look like 'behaviourism with added understanding' but Moyes is careful to point out the potentially significant impact of teaching and the environment as well as any perceived child deficit in creating problem behaviour.

The final chapter is the part that is most often overlooked in books of this type: the need to evaluate for evidence of effectiveness. She argues, for example, for the use of teacher-observation as a means of identifying what is working, leading in turn to development of the support plan, with the overall aim of reducing the amount of support for the student as he / she gains increasing understanding of and control over their behaviour.

Teachers working with children with autism will find this book particularly helpful in developing a coherent approach to supporting children in the classroom. Moreover, Moyes' methodology would be equally effective for teachers working with children whose behavioural difficulties are the result of a range of problems.

Although, in this instance, Moyes writes as both a teacher and a parent, my impression of this book is that it would be of more practical use for the former whilst helping the latter to understand the reasons for their children's behaviour.