As Parents We Arent Looking For An Autism Cure
Parents of neurotypical children are often surprised to hear that parents of children on the Autism Spectrum arent really looking for a cure. Autism is part of their childs life and identity, and they wouldnt be themselves if they werent autistic. These parents might research to find management tips and tricks , but they understand that finding a magical cure to get rid of autism altogether is, for lack of a better word, just silly.
What Not To Do With An Autistic Child
- Dont discipline autism
- You shouldnt try to force them to be neurotypical
- Dont act as if their identity is strictly autism
- Do not talk around them as if theyre not there
- No treating them as less because they have autism
- Dont discount their opinions because they have autism
- Never allow them to be bullied
- Dont stop believing in them
As youre going through this list, dont just think of yourself. Think about the other people in your kiddos life.
The teachers, grandparents, coaches, friends, people in your childs life who have a small understanding of ASD, but dont live with it. People who care about your child, but whose life doesnt revolve around him or her.
If we as autism parents are sometimes guilty of the things well talk about today, how much more so are other people in your kiddos life?
What Not To Do
Dont punish kids for things they cant control.
Dont label them as difficult. Theyre trying their hardest. They understand that their behavior can be challenging, theyre likely frustrated themselves.
Dont let neurotypical professionals judge you for how you discipline or support your child.
About the writer
Im a writer, artist, and advocate who loves living in Maine among the trees and oceanside villages. Im also autistic, ADHD, and PTSD. My education, both academic and personal, has centered around mental health and neurodevelopmental disabilities, as well as discrimination and the socioeconomic consequences of living disabled in America. I work to plant seeds and spread ideas through my writing and will be among the autistic adults helping you understand your autistic kids better on Spectroomz Ask An Autistic. You can find me on Twitter .
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Please Be Patient With My Child
Children on the Autism Spectrum often have a slew of sensory issues and meltdowns in common. Because no one would expect a family with autistic children to stay home all hours of the day, these meltdowns often happen in stores, at parks, and in other public places. Parents of children on the Autism Spectrum simply want others to understand that these meltdowns are not brought on by bad behavior, and to please remain patient with both the parents and the child. Rolling your eyes or mumbling snide comments are not helpful. It will not change the immediate situation and can even add further stress to both parent and child.
Make Consequences Relevant And Immediate
Children with autism sometimes have more trouble understanding cause and effect than neurotypical children, and they also often struggle with short attention spans. Relevant, immediate consequences are important for any child, but those tendencies make it even more important for children on the spectrum. Its also important to keep things reasonably short so that the infraction is still fresh in your childs mind when the punishment is over.
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Handling A Lack Of Responsiveness
My Autistic Child Is Not Trying To Be Difficult
As one parent stated about her autistic son on the popular website Baby Gaga, He isnt giving us a hard time. Hes having a hard time. No child on the Autism Spectrum is trying to behave badly when they experience a meltdown. The biology of autism is complicated and extensive, and much of it cannot even be tested for medically. Children on the Autism Spectrum have trouble with their methylation pathways. Their intestinal tracts do not absorb nutrients well. This impairs their immune system and guts, which then leads to issues in the brain. Because the brain and body of an autistic child do not always work as one, they have to express their pain and frustration in the form of things like meltdowns.
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Discipline Strategies For Children With Autism
Children with autism spectrum disorder have different unique needs and behavioral issues. Thats why for you, the parent, it is especially challenging to deal with an autistic child that doesnt understand his own emotions. Knowing how to discipline them is not an easy path as one strategy that works on another wont work with your kid. Discipline requires a lot of patience because all children misbehave. They throw a temper tantrum, hit another kid, or ignore you. At this point, youll generally scold your childbut disciplining a child with autism requires a different approach.
A child with ASD has a hard time understanding normal behaviors like consequences and reprimands. This doesnt mean he should not be disciplined, but you can apply gentler strategies to help the child better manage their negative behaviors. However, most parents wont give an autistic child timeout for doing something wrong, so the little ones will think that they get a pass for this type of behavior. They learn that rules dont apply to them, so theyll expect the same outcome if they repeat the behavior.
Luckily, you can correct the behavior. This article explores some of the techniques you can use to discipline your autistic child.
How Do I Discipline An Autistic Child
If your son or daughter has been diagnosed with autismspectrum disorder , making every aspect of life as consistent as possible can be helpful in disciplinary process. This means the same discipline techniques from therapy and school should also be used at home. Understanding your child’s limits and providing him or her with the opportunity to succeed can also be a useful discipline tool. It is also common for an autistic child to respond better to positive reinforcement and rewards rather than verbal reprimands. It may also be helpful to show your child what to do rather than simply stating what not to do.
In order to effectively discipline your autistic child, it can be beneficial to work closely with all of the major players in the child’s life, thereby coming up with a consistent means of correcting behavior. This includes doctors, therapists, teachers, and caregivers. For example, if your son or daughter’s therapist uses stickers as a reward system, then teachers, doctors, and family should follow the same system. Working with all of the people in your child’s life to determine what will work best can go a long way in establishing consistent discipline.
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How Discipline Helps Children With Autism
There are many children who misbehave at some point in their life. There perform many abnormal activities like hitting another child, grabbing a toy that is not meant for them.
In such situations, most parents and teachers respond with consequences like time outs or TV privileges loss, etc.
As a result, children learn that their behaviors are abnormal and unacceptable. They also learn that if they control their impulses, then it can have positive outcomes.
However, when a normal child would receive a timeout for something done by an autistic child. Instead of a consequence, the later gets a pass, and that too with a comment such as thats ok, I understand.
When the same thing happens to a child who can understand the rules of behavior, he learns that the rules are not at all applicable to him.
When it comes to the next time, he repeats the behavior expecting the same outcome and this continues.
Developing Plans For Discipline
Learning how to discipline a child with autism takes discipline. One of the best things you can do is to develop a plan for dealing with negative behaviors, and follow through consistently. In order to be consistent, it is helpful to follow your parenting style.
Parenting an autistic child is challenging, and dealing with difficult behaviors can be exhausting. If you work with your child consistently, behavior will improve.
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Im Not An Autism Expert
If you want to learn more about autism and what its like to be autistic, there is one reliable source: a person on the Autism Spectrum. Parents of autistic children can tell you what it is like to live with a person on the Spectrum. They are experts on their own child. But the only person who can tell you what its like to live with autism is an autistic person himself.
How Parents Should Discipline Their Autistic Child
Autistic kids require a lot of compassionate caregiving for things that would typically be deemed discipline issues. Not punishing someone for a meltdown, which is a neurological event, doesnt mean that autistic children dont need structure and discipline.
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Break Out Your Sensory Toolkit
Keep a few sensory tools or toys in your car or bag. You can offer these to your kid when their mind is overwhelmed.
Kids have different favorites, but some common sensory tools include weighted lap pads, noise-cancelling headphones, sunglasses, and fidget toys.
Dont force these on your child when theyre melting down, but if they choose to use them, these products can often help them calm down.
Use Praises And Rewards For Appropriate Behaviour
An autistic child responds better to positive forms of discipline, including the reward system. To make this system effective, choose a visual tool such as the old sticker chart and set the specific number of stickers your child should have to earn the item they want.
These stickers could be anything from your childs favourite cartoon character to an action figure. Give the child a sticker for each day they behave well or complete any duties assigned to them. To reinforce positive behaviour, shower them with a lot of praise. Descriptive praise is preferred since it points out the exact behaviour you are praising the child for.
In case your child has challenges responding to praise, add something that will enable them to link positive words with what they enjoy doing.
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Establishing A Personal Code Of Conduct In The Home
Some key strategies for disciplining a child with Autism is being proactive. In classrooms, teachers establish a set of rules that are featured somewhere in the class. This establishes consistency and leaves a constant reminder of the classroom rules. You need the same type of consistency when disciplining children at home so boundaries are not disputed. Having set rules already established makes explaining why something is wrong that much simpler.
- Time out
- Losing toys or privileges
Its important to not take away activities that soothe and to make sure the child understands why they are being disciplined.
Negative Reinforcement StrategiesConsequences for bad behavior, need consistency but also require caution to not exasperate a problem. Time outs are common disciplinary tactics for all children, but they can be ideal to discipline children with Autism because they give their senses and minds a minute to refocus and stay calm enough to correct the action. Whenever a child experiences a tantrum or violent fit, a time out can help them cool down. It is also important to note that devices and activities, like using a fidget spinner, may help relieve tension. These devices can prevent tantrums and soothe negative energy, so it would be counterproductive to take them away as punishment.
Theres No Need To Tag Us In Every Facebook Article About Autism
Parents of children on the Autism Spectrum are research junkies, and do their best to stay up-to-date with each and every advancement in the autism community. Certainly, they know more than the average person. As one parent put it, Theres literally no Facebook article we havent seen. So, before you share it and tag us because were that friend with the child with autism, take that into account.
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Please Let My Child Play With Your Child
A study done in Australia found that 42% of teens and adults on the Autism Spectrum do not feel comfortable leaving their own home because they often feel others treat them negatively. Not only is this heartbreaking for the affected individuals, it also leads to further misunderstanding and stigma about autism by the general public. Children with autism like to play with their peers, and largely benefit from being included in things like play dates and sports teams.
Is It Autism Or Just Bad Behavior
When it comes to figuring out how to discipline an autistic child, its important to determine if the behavior you are witnessing is a result of the autism, or if your child is in fact misbehaving. As you can imagine, this isnt always an easy thing to do, but there are 2 tools you can use to make an accurate assessment.
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My Child May Be Nonverbal But She Has A Lot To Say
We live in a very verbal society that is ill-equipped for those in our population who are nonverbal. Its estimated that about one-third of those on the Autism Spectrum are unable to speak. Still, it would be a mistake to assume these people do not have ideas, opinions, and other things to say. Some autistic children learn sign language to communicate, while others type or use other tools.
Punishment: What Does It Really Mean
Punishment for a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder is slightly different than that which is used for the child without ASD.
There are several reasons for this. First, the child with ASDdepending on the level of communication skillsmay not fully understand what he or she did wrong. The child also may not grasp that there are consequences to misbehavior or even the connection between poor behavior and consequences.
None of this means that the child with ASD should have no correction or punishment or rules. Quite the contrary. The autistic child likely needs rules and structure more than other children and typically flourishes under fair and reasonable and consistent rules and structure.
The challenge is just that it may take more time for the autistic to understand what you expect of him or her, that there will be a consequence for misbehavior, and what the consequence is.
There are several parts to an Applied Behavior Analysis plan for dealing with unwanted behaviors, but before we get to those parts, we want to stop and remind parents that if a child is in immediate danger like hanging over the end of a dock or running into the street, you need to first get the child out of danger and then enact your ABA plan.
Always eliminate the danger first when possible. There will be plenty of time to work on your rules and consequences afterwards.
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Everyday And Social Skills For Unfamiliar And Difficult Situations
Sometimes autistic children and teenagers might seem like theyre behaving inappropriately. But actually they dont have the skills to handle unfamiliar or difficult situations.
For example, your child doesnt say hello to someone. Your child isnt being rude on purpose they might not know they should say hello. Your child might start hitting something because a particular noise is upsetting them. Or your child might smear poo on the wall because they like the warmth and texture of it, not because they want to upset you or do the wrong thing.
Strategies like role plays, video modelling and social stories can help autistic children develop social skills. They can also help autistic teenagers develop social skills.
Breaking tasks into steps can help autistic children and teenagers learn everyday skills like how to get dressed or how to use deodorant.