Autism Seminar Notes Part 8

Avoidance and Retreat

  • Over-responsive to sensation
  • May respond to touch with aggression or fear
  • May appear anxious and unwilling to take chances
  • Avoids crowded areas
  • Can be picky eaters
  • Decreased peer and social relations 


Avoidance and Retreat Issue #1

BEHAVIOR: Covering Ears

Why is this occurring?

  • Noise in the environment is perceived as painful, irritating, or confusing
  • Student has difficulty screening out extraneous information and is overwhelmed 
  • Can be a “passive” resistive behavior to refuse work 



  • Give students a “heads-up” to alarms, bells, etc.
  • Allow the use of headphones in class, during assemblies, on the bus, or on the playground  
  • Provide quiet space for “noise break”
  • Help student label his emotional reaction
  • Use a positive reinforcement strategy



Avoidance and Retreat #2

BEHAVIOR: Putting head down, “shutting down,” or running away in class, during PE, or at recess

Why is this occurring? 

  • Anticipating his or her over-reactivity to sensation, he becomes avoidant and doesn’t participate in academics and social opportunities  
  • Unaware of the rules of the games
  • Aware that motor skills are hard for him—become avoidant



  • Prepare the student for the activity (social story)
  • Positively reinforce participation in a stimulating activity 
  • Give the student time to collect himself or herself 
  • “Front-load” the student–practice the games and activities for PE and recess  
  • Allow an “approach/avoid” pattern—it’s OK to take a break and return to the activity 



Difficulty with Routine and Academics

  • Internal Issues:
  1. Lacking adequate skills
  2. Not understanding
  3. Fear of being teased, left out, misunderstood 


  • External Issues:
  1. Change in the physical environment
  2. Change in routine
  3. Having to wait too long 


  • Environmental Confusion: crowds & excessive visual/auditory clutter 
  • Organizational Concerns: desk, backpack, & homework
  • Sensory Issues: may impact the ability to focus on academic, PE, play

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