Liberty Goodwin, Director

P.O. Box 40441, Providence, RI 02906

Tel. 401-351-9193,  E-Mail:


(Lighting the Way to Less Toxic Living)

Treatment Tips: A Brief Overview of Common Problems and Fixes

Written by Stephen M. Edelson, Ph.D.
Center for the Study of Autism, Salem, Oregon

When I speak to parents and professionals on treating behavioral problems, I typically say up front that there are no easy and quick fixes to reduce or eliminate severe behavioral problems, which include: self-injury, aggressiveness, severe tantrums and destructiveness. There may be, however, a few fixes that may not require an incredible amount of time and effort to implement. I have listed several suggestions below.

1.) Occasionally a child may exhibit a behavior problem at school but not at home, or vice versa. For example, the parent may have already developed a strategy to stop the behavior at home, but the teacher is unaware of this strategy. It is important that the parent and teacher discuss the child’s behavioral problems since one of them may have already discovered a solution to handle the behavior.

2.) If the child’s behavior is worse at school but not at home, there are many possible reasons, such as a lack of consistency. There are, however, several physical causes that should be considered. Two possible causes, which are seldom considered, are cleaning solvents and florescent classroom lighting. Janitors often use powerful chemicals to clean the classroom. Although the smell may be gone by the next day, the chemical residue may still be in the air and on surfaces. Breathing these chemicals may affect sensitive people. During the day students often place their hands and face on the tables and floors, and these chemicals can eventually wind up in the child’s mouth and alter brain functioning and behavior. Many parents and teachers wipe the students’ desks with water or a natural cleaning solution prior to class each morning, and they have reported rather remarkable improvements in the students’ behaviors.

Florescent lighting, which is the most common lighting used in classrooms, may also affect behavior. Many adults with autism report that florescent lights bothered them greatly during their school years. In addition, U.C.L.A. researchers observed more repetitive, self-stimulatory behaviors under florescent lighting compared to incandescent lighting. Teachers may want to turn off the florescent lighting in their classroom for a few days to see if there is a decrease in behavioral problems for some or all of the students. During this trial period, the teacher can use natural light from the windows and/or incandescent lights.


University of Maryland School of Nursing

3. Cleaning Products:

Definition: Any item used to aid in the cleansing and disinfecting of objects.

Examples include kitchen floor, sink, and countertop cleaners, bathroom tile cleaners, toilet bowel cleaners, and drain and oven cleaners.

Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) released a May 2000 report regarding the effects of heavy metals, pesticides, and cleaning products on humans. They concluded that a variety of disorders, from hyperactivity to autism in children are likely linked to chemical exposure. Solvents used in cleaning products have been shown to decrease fetal body weight, increase the risk of infertility, and delay skeletal development in lab animals. Chlorine based cleaners have been linked to cancers, endometriosis, and birth defects. Chlorine is also used by the paper industry (for our papertowels, napkins, etc), for bleaching purposes. In this process, byproducts such as dioxin and organochlorine are produced, both of which are extremely dangerous chemicals. Dioxins have been linked to cancers and endometriosis.


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