Tim is a ten-year-old boy with an autism spectrum disorder who can be easily distracted (by any distractor, including being lost in thoughts). This problem has been negatively affecting his productivity. The behavior was discussed with Tim who acknowledged the problems that could be caused by it and expressed the wish to learn to control it. Given the boy’s interest in self-management, the choice of the solution was determined.
In describing the issue, Tim pointed out that he could not always track becoming distracted by his thoughts, and he found it difficult to control his attention when a classroom activity could not capture his interest. The self-management system was developed together with Tim during the same conference that was devoted to the discussion of the issue. It was established that the behavior occurred relatively often, especially during some lessons, which is why no self-recording was introduced to avoid additional distractions. Instead, a self-evaluation form was developed, in which Tim was invited to evaluate the extent to which he got distracted during every lesson (after that lesson). In the system, 0 meant “was often distracted,” 1 meant “was sometimes distracted,” and 2 meant “was not distracted.” Initially, the numbers were reversed, but Tim wanted the score to signify a positive outcome.
During the next conference, Tim was able to make conclusions about the lessons during which he was more distracted and commented on the reasons for these tendencies (predominantly, not being interested in the subject). The problem was discussed, and it was established that even the subjects that are not interesting could be important, which Tim acknowledged. A plan of action and goals were developed: Tim decided to be more careful about being distracted during the lessons that proved to be more distraction-prone and to track his performance, determining the changes. Tim concluded that improvements and the lack of changes should be worth some points, but he agreed that improvements should be worth more points. Initially, it was decided to award 3 points for every improvement and 1 point for the lack of changes. Tim wanted to compare every lesson, but during the next conference, he agreed that comparing weeks could be more convenient. It was decided that a score for the week could also be worth a greater reward, and instead of points, treats are now considered. Also, praise is used as a form of reinforcement, and Tim’s mother is involved in the process of the system development.
At this moment, the reinforcements from adults are not faded, but certain achievements can be reported. In particular, Tim is more aware of the reasons for his distractions, keeps track of both the reasons and the instances of being distracted, and seems to be able to reduce the incidence of the behavior, although the success is variable for the time being. He is also genuinely interested in self-management and is ready to come up with ideas for its improvement. However, it is difficult to convince him to change his opinion, which is illustrated by the process of choosing the interval for self-evaluation. Also, he grows unhappy when he discovers a change to the worse, which is why tracking every lesson is potentially stressful. To prevent stress, the process of learning to control oneself has been discussed several times; also, weekly evaluations are likely to produce less stress. When the process is well-established, and Tim is satisfied with the system, the fading process will be launched.