I have done a fair amount of research into the various treatment methods of self-stimulatory behaviours (these are behaviours that autistic individuals perform often and repetitively, such as arm flapping, pen flicking, hair twirling, squeezing, mouthin, etc). The majority of these methods seem to teach the child that their behaviour is wrong, and that it must be corrected. Most of the methods involve some sort of punishment, whether physical (like a slap) or emotional (like a time out). Most of the articles these ideas are coming from were written between 1970-1990, so there have obviously been some changes in the way treatment is administered. Today, physical punishment is strayed away from and is always discussed and agreed upon with parents. In extreme cases, it may still be used when necessary.
Time out-like methods are still used when a child is having a lot of difficulty focusing. Most commonly, educators today attempt to interrupt the child and redirect his/her attention to something else. This is often a very effective method for stopping the behaviour, but it seems very tedious to constantly have to stop and redirect a child each time he/she loses focus.
I am proposing a way to teach children that there are appropriate times to engage in these behaviours. This way, the child would be able to integrate self-stimulatory behaviours into their daily schedule so it would not be a constant interruption. This would allow children to focus more effectively, without constant disruptions to daily tasks/activities. It has been shown in several articles that a reduction in these behaviours leads to better focus and attention on the task at hand. For example, Koegel et. al carried out an experiment using the ABA method and concluded that the "level of appropriate play rose significantly when the self-stimulation was suppressed" (Koegel et. al, 526). Specific statistics are noted in my research.
To help me and others visualize my research, I have created a diagram of the various methods I have found thus far. It lists the definition of the method, an example or two, and my opinion.
See a larger version of the diagram here.
My next steps are to find out more factual information about the most common methods used today because at this point I mainly have anecdotal information. I am in the process of getting in touch with a professor that teaches in the New School clinical psychology program and specializes in autism. I am hoping that he will be able to point me to some relevant authors/articles, as well as discuss the feasibility of my project with me.
I will be revamping my diagram with some of the more recent methods once I get some more fact-based information.
I am also setting up times to go observe children in their school environment. I am hoping this will give me a better insight into which specific behaviours seem to be most common, which are most disruptive, and what is done to curb the behaviours.