The only one that really struck fear in our hearts was flipping the pages of magazines. At first it was only a particular kind of magazine, but later, any would do. Flipping the pages of a magazine always led to a little tear, then a lot of tearing, which led to trying to fix the pages (by us), which led to hopeless fixes and “help me, please” and then aggressive behavior. Some of you knew where this was leading at “flipping the pages”.
This behavior started very early, at age 3. We were unable to control the behavior. Instead by the time she was 5, we wiped out magazines, hid books and reams of paper, everything flippable was gone from the house. We never read a newspaper, never looked up a recipe in a cookbook and kept computer paper high up on the shelf.
Many years, later, that same obsession is a power reinforcer. The magazine is controlled under specific circumstance, perhaps a haircut or a difficult medical treatment.
The whole premise of Applied Behavior Analysis is working to get what you want. As Joanne Gerenser used to say, “Most people work for the most powerful reinforcer: Money!”
I wish we had understood and used the concept of reinforcement at the beginning and used it to the family’s advantage. I was too scared to introduce it but braver parents can use those stims and obsessions to shape behaviors and make life smoother by creating the right delivery of rewards.