Tips For Disciplining An Autistic Child
1. Remain neutral. It is especially important to remain calm and neutral when disciplining an autistic child who struggles with verbal communication and/or cannot read nonverbal cues. For example, a child who doesnt recognize an angry voice from a happy one may take great delight in the change in your tone and repeat the behavior over and over simply to witness this new reaction from you. Its also important to keep in mind that loud noises can be extremely painful to a child with autism, and while it may seem like raising your voice in anger or frustration drives the point home, your child may be so caught up in trying to cope with the sound of your voice that shes unable to properly connect it with the behavior she was engaging in before it occurred.
2. Redirect and ignore. Once you know WHY your child is behaving in a certain way, find ways to redirect her to something more positive. For example, if she is pulling your hair to get your attention, teach her to tap you gently on the leg instead. This will take time and patience, but once she understands the concept, ignore the negative behavior and reward the positive behavior .
FIRST: homework for 30 minutesTHEN: play video games for 10 minutes
for an alternative good behavior chart I created that has proven to be a great parenting tool in our house!
reward your child soon after the desired behavior is completed to establish a connection between the 2 and keep her motivated.
A wise person once said:
Using Aba Principles To Discipline
Applied Behavior Analysis therapy offers some techniques to adapt behavior from unwanted behavior to preferred behavior that translates into our everyday lives. ABA focuses on the why and the how aspects of behavior to implement an intervention the why refers to the cause of the behavior and the how refers to the tools that can effectively be used to change the unwanted behavior to a preferred behavior.
The ABC in ABA is the foundation to applying ABA for disciplining your child with autism. The acronym stands for: Antecedent Behavior, Consequence. The antecedent is the event that occurs before the behavior, the behavior is the observable action, and the consequence is what happens with the child as a result of the event. Once you have a clear understanding of the cause of the behavior , it is much easier to predict the consequence after the behavior.
Using the principles of ABC, as a parent, youre in a better place to respond to situations and teach a preferred response before they even occur so that in the event a challenge does occur the child is better adapted to respond accordingly.
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.
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Some Children Thrive When Given Structured Hands
Many children I have worked with or have observed, did very well when given a hands-on/visual activity. Examples include playing a computer game, sorting objects by color or object type completing a puzzle, constructing a model car, tracing or coloring in a picture, etc. As another example, some teachers of children with autism teach academic skills through sorting tasks. For instance, an activity about learning colors would require the child to put all the yellow chips in a yellow cup, all the blue chips in a blue cup, etc. Keeping a child focused with an activity they do well at is a great way to encourage calm behavior. However, if the child is feeling overwhelmed or frustrated from the activity, allow a break or a change in the task.
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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.
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How To Discipline A Child With Autism: 5 Things To Consider
1. Choose one behavior to work on. When we reach our breaking point with our childs behavior, we tend to go to the extreme. We want to fix every single behavioral issue RIGHT NOW, and fail to remember that change takes time. If you want to know how to discipline a child with autism effectively, you need to pick one behavior to work on at a time. Take 5-10 minutes to write out all of the things you and your child are struggling with and circle the ones that disrupt your childs day the most. From that list, choose the behavior that puts your child at the most risk, or the one that causes the most challenges and disruptions in your daily routine.
2. Identify the WHY behind the behavior. As discussed above, using a combination of an ABC Behavior Chart and the Iceberg Model can help you dig deep and get a better understanding of why your child is behaving a certain way. While time-consuming, knowing the WHY behind your childs behavior is extremely important for effectively rectifying behavioral issues with autism, especially in cases where the child in question struggles with verbal communication.
Common Reasons Why Behaviors Occur
Often the function of a behavior is to get something or avoid something. It could be any of the following:
- A biological/medical problem Are they hungry? Thirsty? In pain? Feeling sick?
- Attention Attention is a need and children often seek attention in negative ways.
- Escaping demands Are they avoiding a particular activity or demand?
- Sensory/Self-Regulation Unmet sensory needs and/or overstimulation often lead behaviors.
- Tangible items A toy for example or an item they want but arent allowed to have.
- Anxiety Caused by any of the above
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Tip : Find Nonverbal Ways To Connect
Connecting with a child with ASD can be challenging, but you dont need to talkor even touchin order to communicate and bond. You communicate by the way you look at your child, by the tone of your voice, your body language and possibly the way you touch your child. Your child is also communicating with you, even if he or she never speaks. You just need to learn the language.
Look for nonverbal cues. If you are observant and aware, you can learn to pick up on the nonverbal cues that children with ASD use to communicate. Pay attention to the kinds of sounds they make, their facial expressions, and the gestures they use when theyre tired, hungry, or want something.
Figure out the motivation behind the tantrum. Its only natural to feel upset when you are misunderstood or ignored, and its no different for children with ASD. When children with ASD act out, its often because youre not picking up on their nonverbal cues. Throwing a tantrum is their way of communicating their frustration and getting your attention.
Children With Autism And Discipline
Children with autism are often well-meaning, tenderhearted individuals who have unique challenges developing communication and social skills. Because of this, the way they perceive the world is different than their peers. For this reason, it is crucial each child receives proper attention in youth to ensure he or she becomes an acclimated and approachable adult.
This can be accomplished by parents defining appropriate and inappropriate behaviors, according to household rules and societal norms. If consistent punishments are attached to different offenses, a child can know what to expect if rules are broken.
Things Parents Of Children On The Autism Spectrum Want You To Know
It is estimated that one in 68 children are now diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum disorder, and yet, this diagnosis remains as misunderstood as ever. We simply do not live in a society that is accommodating or even accepting of those who are not neurotypical. Fortunately, parents of autistic children are wonderful at communicating who their children are and why. Below are 30 things those parents of children on the Autism Spectrum want you to know.
How To Discipline A Child On The Autism Spectrum
The purpose of discipline is to set healthy boundaries and clear expectations of appropriate behavior, not to punish or embarrass your child.
While there are certainly challenges to disciplining a child on the autism spectrum, discipline instills valuable lessons that the child will take with them their whole lives. Keep reading to learn safe, effective, and compassionate strategies for how to discipline a child on the autism spectrum.
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Tips For Disciplining Your Autistic Child
Scott, a native of Canada, joined the Hidden Talents team at the onset of 2021, moving his family of 6 from San Diego to the great state of Georgia. He began his journey in behavior analytics in 2001 at a time when autism programs had very little oversight by credentialled clinicians. The onset of that journey was wrought with disappointment in a system that seemed to do very little lasting good for the long-term growth of the individuals within that system.
Over the years, Scott determined to ensure that dignity and respect was afforded to the children he had the privilege of working, while devoting a lot of energy into understanding how the development of a child is the key focus to treatment and not reactive behavior modification. Truly listening to the child and the family and finding ways to make behavior change fun and engaging continues to be his passion. Over the last 20 years, Scott still relishes every opportunity to visit families and have the honor of being a part of their lives.
Maureen joined the Hidden Talents ABA Team in 2020 and has over 15+ years of Office Management and Administrative experience. Maureen is that friendly voice that will most likely greet you when you call into the office with a positive attitude and ready to assist with the screening and the ABA authorization process. Maureen said the best part of my job is working with a phenomenal team and helping as many families as possible.
Disciplining An Autistic Child Starts Before A Negative Behavior
See, when you say discipline, most people think about harsh punishments for misbehaviors.
But the fact is, discipline starts long before a negative behavior.
Discipline is more about the way that you parent than the way that you punish.
So the very first step to discipline an autistic child is realizing that the discipline has to start before the negative behaviors.
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Two Words: Gentle Consistency
Children with autism pick up on things differently than other children. For example, your child may not pick up on the irritation in your voice when you ask them not to do something.
These misunderstandings can make traditional discipline techniques less effective. Your child might not understand the consequences of their actions, which can be frustrating. However, you should refrain from any kind of physical or verbal punishment that could have a negative effect on your child.
Instead, be gentle with your words and actions. If your child is screaming and having a tantrum, keep calm and dont raise your voice. All children learn through imitation, so try and respond to your childs behavior clearly and gently.
And now for consistency. Consistency is the key to safe, effective discipline. Most children with autism respond well to structured discipline, perhaps due to their desire for sameness and routine.
Consistent discipline can also alleviate some of your childs anxiety, a common characteristic of autism. Consistent outcomes help children feel secure and confident in their choices.
If your child knows what to expect from a certain behavior , they may not feel as overwhelmed when you discipline them.
In other words, consistency gives your child the ability to predict the outcome of a situation, which is a powerful and necessary step toward independence.
Discipline Strategies For Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder
Just like all other children, children with Autism Spectrum Disorder need to mature and learn discipline in order to function appropriately in social situations. There are, however, additional challenges disciplining children with Autism because of the sensory perception issues they deal with. Punishment for a child with Autism may seem like you mean them harm if you are not careful to explain what is happening. Sometimes behavioral issues in children with Autism manifest as symptoms, but they also have similar impulses as other boys and girls, which can get them into trouble too. Whether it is a behavioral issue or something your child does not realize they are doing, the behavior can be corrected.
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My Autistic Child Has Feelings
A common challenge children on the Autism Spectrum and their parents face is the assumption that because an autistic child cannot verbalize or express their feelings like a neurotypical child might, those feelings must not exist. But nothing could be further from the truth. As one parent bluntly describes, Even children who dont speak can still hear you. Dont talk to me over my children like they arent there, especially if youre going to sympathetically tell me what a saint I am for dealing with a horrible situation every day. Im not a saint. Im their mother. And she HEARS YOU and understands that youre saying shes a burden to me.
Should I Discipline My Child With Autism
The most important thing to remember here is that discipline is not about physically punishing your child, but helping them develop into a healthy, respectful adult. Early intervention can achieve incredible results. When you provide your child with the tools and support they need to choose more preferred behaviors, this will allow themto become more independent later in life.
Positive parenting with positive discipline teaches all children, including those with autism, to become resourceful and responsible. In the process, you will promote a more secure parent-child attachment and protect your childs mental health.
When debating whether you should or should not discipline your child with autism, focus more on your approach and less on the disciplinary mentality. Remember, guiding your child towards more optimal behaviors is a loving thing to do the key is how you do that.
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How Else Do You Discipline A Child With Autism
Each offense should be dealt with in the same manner, as this gives the child a clear picture of what will happen when they do something that they should not be doing. Any delayed punishments will not work with a child who has autism.
It is also important for parents to remain calm.
Try to avoid yelling or out of control actions. If youre feeling frustrated should walk away from the situation to calm down. Parenting is hard for any parent, but with the extra stress of autism, things can easily get out of control even for the best of parents.
Each child will learn about discipline in a different way, and as long as the punishments are just, immediate, and consistent, there should be some progress being made.
Dealing with autism and discipline is never easy, but with practice, you can learn to cope.
Welcome to Voices of Special Needs Blog Hop a monthly gathering of posts from special needs bloggers hosted by The Sensory Spectrum and The Jenny Evolution. Click on the links below to read stories from other bloggers about having a special needs kiddo from Sensory Processing Disorder to ADHD, from Autism to Dyslexia! Want to join in on next months Voices of Special Needs Hop? !
But Dont Lower Your Standards
Raising a child with autism can be stressful and worrying, and its easy to fall into the trap of trying to protect your child from the consequences of his actions or making excuses for bad behavior because he is on the spectrum. Try not to let that happen. Disciplining your children may be difficult for all of you in the short term, but its the best way to help them grow up into healthy, well-adjusted adults.
Remember, every parent makes mistakes when it comes to discipline, but these eight steps can help you create an effective plan to minimize those mishaps and tailor your approach to your childs unique needs.
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