Autism: Using Spreadsheets for Tracking Behavioral Factors

There are so many factors that can influence or illustrate how our children with autism are wearing their own skin, including health, toileting, aggressive &/or self-injurious behaviors, sleep patterns, medications, language usage, diet, and school performance.

We've used a Google spreadsheet to track those factors for Leelo for the past two-and-a-half years, with a lot of success.

Tracking helps us back up our anecdotal observations: "Yes, he has had more self-injurious behaviors this week. He developed a runny nose on the second day of the behaviors, so possibly there is sinus involvement. The behaviors disappeared three days later, along with the runny nose."

They help us make better long-view analyses as well. We've been able to establish patterns of seasonal allergies, and also have lots of data to support our concerns about summer regressions.

Supervisor M recently asked me to revise the spreadsheet to make it more data-driven. We're also including his weight at the beginning of the month, as well as a list of the foods he typically eats every day. Here's a sample of the current version, modified as per her suggestions:
Leelo Rosenberg Behaviors Tracking Spreadsheet.
Of course, there are incidents that need no additional interpretation, as when Leelo has a spectacular meltdown in the Costco checkout line yesterday because we arrived as soon as the doors opened and there weren't any nice people handing out food samples. (His sisters weren't there, I remained calm, helped him to his feet, reminded him to keep his hands down, and met the eyes of the people around me with what I hope was a look of Autism Parent Supreme Confidence).

I transcribe his teacher's daily notes as well, from the notebook that we use to communicate. Today's notes should give you an idea of why I am so worried about summer and regression. I want my son to be doing this well, staying in this happy space, forever:
"Leelo had a great, great day today. His behavior was great (had no self-injuries). Good attention/focus. He also worked well during time for independent work (worked 90% independent :) ).

"1:1 work with teacher: Still working on the following:
  1. Sight words (colors)
  2. Coins (matching pics and real coins)
  3. Counting
  4. Fine motor tasks (nuts and bolts)
"He also played a table game with me (Colorama) and was able to say "my turn" with minimum prompts.

"Also very engaged in the motor room and sensory room.

"Had good behavior during snack time."
One thing the teacher didn't write down was a seriously scraped knee. This would normally be a concern, not because of the injury (kids scrape knees; it's what they do) but because he doesn't tolerate band-aids and so his cuts/scrapes tend to get infected. But he not only came home wearing a band-aid, he let me change it without complaint, and kept it on without a single fidget or fiddling for the remainder of the day. Who is this boy? I want to keep him.


  1. one of our schoolkids, who reminds me of a blond leo, had a spectacular breakdown at the 5th grade kickball game, for which all the rest of the kids provided an audience. because he reminds me of leo i have always "assumed" he has autism (i have no access to that info for confidentiality overreasons because art teachers don't count) but don't really know that. anyway, he came apart while watching the game and nobody seemed to know why (sun? boredom? excitement?) or what to do. i sort of positioned myself in a somewhat screening position, ready to do whatever i could (both the principal and AP were on the scene) keeping the other kids off, etc. some of the other/younger teachers tried to carry him away which as completely unsuccessful and then they sent me for a wheelchair, which was ultimately what happened--beyond that, i don't know. but my point is, reading your blog provides my only "training" in such situations and don't ever think it doesn't spring IMMEDIATELY to mind. often.

  2. e, I don't know what else a person could have done in that situation if they didn't know the child. Most children in our school district who have those kinds of behaviors, even intermittent, have an aide, even if that aide is not 1:1.

    I know that I can hold Leo by his upper arm and ask him to put his hands down, and that usually settles him. But another kid might freak, and turn around and hit, bite, etc. Turning other people away and making sure the child doesn't injure himself or others is what I would do, until knowledgeable help arrived.


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