Recently a family had trouble with their 2-year-old autistic son scrolling. Scrolling is when your child goes through several answers to a question before landing on the correct answer. This could look something like;
You hold up a picture of a cow > instead of saying cow and getting the reward your child says > duck, dog, cat, cow!
Whenever a new quirk in your child’s behavior arises you should always talk to your therapist about it so they can draw up a comprehensive plan, but there are some generic answers to this problem; which are commonly used by applied behavioral analyses (ABA) therapists.
A lot of ABA therapists seem to agree scrolling happens when the child’s error-correction isn’t performed correctly by the therapist.
What this means is, when a child is learning what a new response it is up to the therapist to prompt the child from most invasive, to least invasive.
‘A ‘most invasive’ prompt would look like “what is this shape?” And when the child doesn’t respond correctly the therapist immediately prompts them by telling them the answer to be repeated, then praises them. The least invasive method would ask the question and then wait for the child to answer it correctly the first time without prompts.’
Sometimes a child wants to give the correct answer a little too badly, and repeats a bunch of answers in hopes to land on the correct one. The scrolling could then occur when the therapist allows the child to reel off answers and praises them when they land on the right one regardless of all of those errors. Funnily enough, now the child has learnt that, cat, dog, cow, duck, is what you say to get a reward when shown a duck.
But it’s not too late to reverse the problem! Your child won’t do this forever. All the therapist has to do is clarify that spieling off ten words until they get to the answer isn’t the correct response to the question at hand.
To do this, when the child starts to scroll after a question is asked you pause, make it clear they are to wait, and then you re-introduce the question. If the child continues to scroll after three attempts, ask the question and use the most invasive prompt to illicit the correct answer, then praise.
A method like this, or something similar, is likely what your therapist will do to correct this charming, and a little bizarre quirk that a lot of children with autism develop especially as early learners. It is a simple problem to both develop and fix and should be no problem for your therapist to help your child overcome.