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The ‘define’ skill is the ability to consider all of the ‘person first’ explanations you have generated, and then select one of those explanations as being the most likely to be what the person is thinking and feeling. You will usually be able to make this selection based on your knowledge of the individual and the circumstances surrounding the behaviour.

For example, returning to the lunchbox scenario mentioned in the introduction video of Week 1, using a ‘person first’ approach, there were many reasons why Mick may not have been eating his lunch. The next skill, ‘define’, asks you to choose one of those reasons so you can more clearly define the problem.

Returning to the lunch box - we generated many possible reasons as to why Mick might not be eating his lunch, such as the way the sandwich is cut, the temperature of the food, not liking the food, or that getting the lunch box from the classroom is difficult, or that his lunch looks different to everyone else’s. Now, to ‘define’ further, we select one of these as being the most likely, and in this case, knowing Mick is particularly sensitive to temperature, we would select the way we are storing the sandwich as the most probable explanation.

Deciding on one explanation allows us to be thoughtful with strategies, and enables us to focus on trying just one solution.

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This article is from the free online course:

Supporting and Engaging People with Autism

Swinburne University of Technology