It’s Unfair To Discipline A Child With Special Needs
Of course, it is unfair to discipline a child for something he cannot avoid. So, for example, scolding a child with autism for “stimming” or making noise may well be unreasonable. These are behaviors that are part and parcel of being autistic, and it may be nearly impossible for the child to simply “extinguish” those behaviors.
It is not only fair but necessary to teach a child with autism that intentional misbehavior is unacceptable. Allowing such behaviors to continue because a child is “special” creates a new whole raft of behavioral and social problems.
Behavioral Issues Found In Autistic Children
Autistic children tend to display disruptive behaviors that can be difficult to manage. Understanding the reason behind these behaviors and responding in a positive manner will help you better deal with the challenges of disciplining your child.
Here are some of the most common behavioral issues among children on the autism spectrum:
Identify The Why Behind The Behavior
As mentioned above, using the ABC behavior chart in combination with the Iceberg model can help you to gain a deeper understanding of why your child behaves in the way that they do. Although it takes time, knowing the why behind your childs behavior is very important for effectively resolving behavioral problems in autism, especially in children who have difficulty with verbal communication.
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Treatment And Education Of Autistic And Related Communication Handicapped Children
The TEACCH system uses highly structured curriculums and boundaries to keep autistic children on task and focused in the classroom. Schedules are personalized for each child and use the childs strengths to assist him throughout the day. The TEACCH system operates on the belief that problem behaviors serve a function for the autistic child therefore, recognition of the cause is important to changing the negative behavior. The TEACCH system builds support into the autistic childs schedule to avoid meltdowns and problematic behaviors. Educators teach the autistic children alternative behaviors that will achieve the same results as the problem behavior. The hope is over time these new behaviors will replace the negative behaviors as a means to an end for the child.
How To Discipline A Child With Autism
Children on the autism spectrum struggle with unique behavioral issues and knowing how to discipline them isnt always easy. It may take a lot of time and patience, but with consistency and the right techniques, youll be able to successfully correct your childs undesired behaviors.
Here are our best tips on how to discipline children with autism and guide them toward appropriate behavior.
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Behavior Management In The Classroom And At Home
Here are some strategies I have used from time to time to help children reach their potential in the classroom or at home. Behavior management is a very important component and needs as much intervention as academics or classroom management. Its important to:
- Provide a very clear structure and a set of daily routine .
- Use clear language. Avoid humor/irony, or phrases like my feet are killing me or its raining cats and dogs, which may cause bewilderment.
- Make clear which behaviors are unacceptable.
- Avoid sentences like Would you like to do this? or Why did you do that? It is always more beneficial to give a child some choices.
- Address the child individually at all times or by using alerting cues such as Everyone and , please put your notebooks away.
- Keep visual timetables, which are a great resource for helping a child stay organized.
- Recognize changes in manner or behavior may reflect anxiety or stress, such as talking loudly, pacing the room up and down, flapping hands, or collar biting . It is very important to identify the triggers and address them.
- Calm with mindfulness or breathing exercises.
- Utilize sensory inputs such as playing with a sensory ball or squeeze ball, trampoline jumping, and rocking, which are all behaviors that may help calm.
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.
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How Do You Teach Students With Autism Spectrum
The number of students with autism is on the rise. So a deep understanding of the strategies and social skills needed to handle a class of autistic children is extremely important.
Listed are some tried and true strategies that will ensure every autistic child receives the best education possible.
These strategies apply to both the classroom and home environments.
Structure or routine is the name of the game when it comes to autism. Maintain the same daily routine, only making exceptions for special occasions. During such moments, place a distinct picture that depicts the days events in the child’s personal planner.
Design an environment free of stimulating factors:
a. Avoid playing loud background music as it makes it difficult for the autistic child to concentrate.
b. Eliminate stress because autistic children quickly pick up on negative emotions. So for example, if youre experiencing too much stress, leave the classroom until you feel better.
c. Maintain a low and clear voice when engaging the class. Students with autism get easily agitated and confused if a speaking voice is too loud.
d. Some autistic people find fluorescent lights distracting because they can see the flicker of the 60-cycle electricity. To mitigate this effect:
Place the child’s desk near the window or try to avoid using fluorescent lights altogether.
If the lights are unavoidable, use the newest bulbs you have as they flicker less.
Here are some statements you can recite on difficult days:
When My Son With Autism Melts Down Heres What I Do
Health and wellness touch each of us differently. This is one persons story.
I sat in the child psychologists office telling her about my six-year-old son who has autism.
This was our first meeting to see if we would be a good fit to work together toward an evaluation and formal diagnosis, so my son wasnt present.
My partner and I told her about our choice of home-schooling and how weve never used punishment as a form of discipline.
As the meeting continued, her brows became hawklike.
I could see the judgment in her expression when she began a monologue about how I needed to force my son to go to school, force him into situations that make him extremely uncomfortable, and force him to socialize regardless of how he feels about it.
Force, force, force.
I felt like she wanted to stuff his behaviors into a box, then sit on top of it.
In reality, each and every child with autism is so unique and different from what society deems typical. You could never fit their beauty and quirkiness into a box.
We declined her services and found a better fit for our family for our son.
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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.
Supporting Students With Autism: 10 Ideas For Inclusive Classrooms
Students with autism may have unique needs with learning, social skills, and communication. These ten simple ideas will help teachers address some of these needs and provide guidance for bringing out the best in learners with autism.
Adapted from: P. Kluth . Youre Going to Love This Kid!: Teaching Students with Autism in the Inclusive Classroom.
While most educators agree that no recipe exists for teaching any individual student or group of students, there are certainly some guidelines that can be helpful for supporting students with certain labels. Students with autism may have unique needs with learning, social skills, and communication, therefore, teachers will need strategies to address each one of these areas. These ten simple ideas will help teachers address some of the aforementioned needs and provide guidance for bringing out the best in learners with autism labels.
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Why Are Rules And Discipline Important For Autistic Children
As adults, societys rules are important because they guide us in our everyday lives. Our ability to interact with others is more effective when were aware of our actions in relation to others it renders us sensitive to how others may perceive us.
It is important to teach children with autism rules because, without them, their experience of the world can be more stressful and anxiety-provoking. Children with autism spectrum disorder perceive the world differently, their perception of the world can be a scary experience therefore, by teaching them rules and enforcing discipline, they develop greater understanding of how the world around them works, and can therefore become more adaptive. Understanding lifes rules also provides a sense of independence as your child grows up as he/she can understand what is expected by society and various social situations.
Research has shown that children with ASD face challenges forming connections with facial cues and more obvious/salient cues. Many children on the autism spectrum also find it difficult to learn, apply, and be flexible to abstract rules.
If Possible Use A Schedule To Let The Child Know How His Day Will Go
For children who have trouble reading or understanding language, a visual schedule would be best. A schedule for after school could include eating a snack, doing homework, watching TV, playing a game with the family, reading a book, taking a bath and going to bed. A visual schedule at school could include math, reading, gym, lunch, recess, art, science, packing up, and getting on the bus. Below is an example of a visual schedule:
See How to Use Schedules to Improve Childrens Behavior for more on getting the materials for and utilizing first/then boards and visual schedules.
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Establishing And Maintaining Classroom Rules
Let The Child Know What Will Happen Next
For example, After you finish the puzzle, it is time to brush your teeth, or In five minutes it is time to turn off the computer and start your writing assignment. For some children it is helpful to set a timer so the child can keep track of how much time is left. So in the example above In five minutes it is time to turn off the computer and start your writing assignment you would set the timer for five minutes. Some children need reminders as the time is winding down to 2 minutes, 1 minute, etc.
For children who have trouble understanding the concept of time or numbers, a visual timer can be helpful because the child can see how much time is left.
Visual timers can be purchased on or other online stores. Here are some examples below that you can click on to see prices and reviews.
With a red clock visual timer, children can see time running out as the red disappears.
Sand timers let children know that time is up when the sand at the top gets to the bottom.
You can even get a free visual timer app on your IPhone, IPAD, or Android device. Just do a search for visual timer in your app store.
See 3 Ways to Use Timers to Encourage Homework and Chore Completion for more information on how to implement timers for children with and without autism.
You would need to get the paper laminated and purchase Velcro to make this kind of chart .
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Learn About The Learner From The Learner
Oftentimes, educators needing information about a student will study the individuals educational records. While these documents are certainly one source of information, they are seldom the most helpful source of information. Teachers wanting to know more about a student with autism should ask that student to provide information. Some students will be quite wiling and able to share information while others may need coaxing or support from family members. Teachers might ask for this information in a myriad of ways. For instance, they might ask the student to take a short survey or sit for an informal interview. One teacher asked his student with autism, to create a list of teaching tips that might help kids with learning differences. The teacher then published the guide and gave it out to all educators in the school.
If the student with autism is unable to communicate in a reliable way, teachers can go to families for help. Parents can share the teaching tips they have found most useful in the home or provide video of the learner engaged in different family and community activities. These types of materials tend to give educators ideas that are more useful and concrete than do traditional educational reports and assessments.
Acknowledge Your Child Or Students For Complying With Your Requests
For instance, if your child is using a loud voice in the movie theater and you say, whisper in the theater, praise the child with a comment such as nice job whispering, or thank you for being respectful in the theater. For children who understand language well, situations like this are a good time to teach about other peoples perspectives .
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Incorporate Strengths & Interests
Every child has strengths and interests. These assets can become leverage to help children engage more in class, stay on task, and reduce behavior challenges.
Observe children with autism closely to discover their unique assets. School staff can then incorporate the childrens strengths and interests into the curriculum, activities, and rewards system to prompt positive behavior.
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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Other Considerations When Planning For Transitions
Along with developing predictable and consistent transition routines, team members may also need to consider adjusting the activities that individuals are transitioning to and from if transition difficulty continues. Factors such as the length of an activity, the difficulty level, and the interest level of an individual all may contribute to transition issues. Similarly, if an area is too crowded, loud, over stimulating or averse for some reason, individuals may resist transitioning to that location. A review of environmental factors that could contribute to transition difficulties is also recommended. In addition, the sequence of activities may need to be reviewed. Team members may benefit from reviewing the activities required of the individual throughout the day and categorizing them as preferred, non-preferred, or neutral. If the individual has difficulty transitioning it may be wise, when possible, to strategically sequence certain activities so individuals are moving from non-preferred activities to preferred activities and from preferred activities to neutral activities. Though this certainly may not be possible for all of an individuals transitions, it may alleviate some transition challenges.
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