RED FLAGS - GREEN FLAGS
Which do you follow?
Parents frequently tell me about the ‘red flags’ that professionals claim to see in their child.
‘Red flags’ are signs of autistic-like or delayed behavior---such as severe language delay, lining up cars, flicking his hands, isolating himself, not talking to others, repeating actions or communications and many more ‘suspicious’ behaviors.
Seldom do people stop and ask: Does the child show as many positive social behaviors as the ‘red flags’ that appear? The diagnosis of autism, PDD or Asperger’s is often based on these ‘red flags’ without accounting for two critical things; ‘green flags ‘ developmentally correct behavior that is not autistic-like, and recent changes showing productive social and communicative behavior.
These ‘green flags” and recent changes show that for some children, autistic behavior is a developmental matter more than a long-term disorder.
Some professionals seek out negative signs, focus on the obvious differences and ignore positive ones that I call “green flags.” This results in unreliable and invalid assessment and treatment.
A green flag is a behavior that shows the child is developing in skills that show he is not autistic or delayed all the time. It also suggests that he is even developing out of autistic habits.
Common green flags include playing with others, initiating or responding to others’ contacts, playing functionally and not repeatedly, communicating to others more than to himself, showing more interest in people, using language socially, occasionally having reciprocal conversations, cooperating, showing empathy and many other skills that can be built into the effective social life that defines success in autism.
A global ‘green flag’ occurs when the child is showing fewer ‘red flags’ over time or when they are less autistic-like in certain environments. It is now clear that autistic behavior is not everywhere and with everyone. Autistic behavior varies as the child’s environments vary.
WHY ARE RED AND GREEN FLAGS IMPORTANT?
When a child is seen as a list of Red flags, people often attend more to negative behaviors and less to positive ones that a can be built socially. Attending to red flags can result in increasing them.
Focusing on red flags often frightens parents into a state where all they see is negative things. Red flags depress parents and a depressed parent often gives up or gives up opportunities to help the child themselves. They give professionals many tasks that only they as parents can do at home in their daily interactions.
Red flags can get parents into a habit of getting rid of behaviors rather than building positive behaviors (Green flags)
Focusing on “green flags” gives parents hope and motivation based on clear evidence. “Green flags” show how the child is developing and where support is immediately needed. They give the parents a place to start to have successes. We find that when parents and professionals respond to the ‘green flags’ they get more of them. Often the most effective beginning goal for a child is to have him do more of their green flags and do them in interactions with people who are matching, balancing and responding to them. Parents will even find that there are ‘red flag” and ‘green flag” people, that is ones who their child does poorly or well with.
Discuss the “green flags’ with your family and others so everyone is supporting your child’s progress rather than focusing on his problems. Use the red flag-green flag approach in your IEP plans with the school. Specify the value of including green flags in the goals so the child has some success to encourage him through the difficult goals.
KEEP A PARALLEL LIST OF RED FLAGS AND GREEN FLAGS
Use the list to have a balanced view of your child. The list will show you what behaviors (Green flags) you should respond to and build into your interactions and which behaviors (Red flags) you should ignore so you don’t inadvertently develop them.
MY CHILD’S RED FLAGS AND GREEN FLAGS
A red flag is a sign of problems.
RED FLAGS GREEN FLAGS
LEARNING ON HIS OWN-COGNITIVE.
OTHER DEVELOPMENTAL CONCERNS
Please see the ARM for many developmental steps.
Copyright 2010 James MacDonald