Why Discipline And Structure Are Important For Autistic Children
Structure and discipline are two things that both normal and autistic children need to thrive. It is a lack of adult involvement in creating a safe world that frightens and overwhelms a child.
Though it is assumed that a child with autism cant understand and follow guidelines or rules. But most of the autistic children are capable of obeying the basic rules of conduct.
Depending upon the circumstances, those rules may need to be modified.
What happens if a child is educated without the benefit of structure and discipline? Here is a high probability for him to suffer the negative consequences as he or she grows up.
Clear Rules About Behaviour
Rules are positive statements that let children know how theyre expected to behave and what your family limits are.
The rule might be that your child cant play in the morning until theyre ready for school for example, First get ready, then have playtime. You could use a visual support like a timer to show your child how long there is until you need to leave for school. When your child has finished getting ready, they can play for the time left on the timer. If the timer has finished, theres no time to play.
Effective Discipline For The Autistic Child
Discipline for any child is rooted in setting boundaries and helping children learn how to channel their emotions and behave appropriately. For the child with ASD who already has difficulties regulating emotion and behaving in a socio-normative manner, discipline may seem to be more challenging and ineffective. However, there are many things you can do to effectively discipline your autistic child. Here, we will discuss a few things that affect discipline with the child on the spectrum.Before we jump in, there are a few things to keep in mind about discipline.
- Effective discipline looks different for every child, on the spectrum or not.
- Discipline helps people to get along with others, effectively express themselves, and create meaningful relationships.
- Physical discipline is not often effective and is downright inappropriate for a child who does not understand.
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What Is Positive Discipline
This means that the positive behaviors should be rewarded as much as possible and the negative ones should not be rewarded with a lot of attention. This is good advice for any child, but is very important for children with autism.
When children have bad moments, it is important for a parent to figure out why. They may just be acting out in a naughty manner, but they may also be experiencing tension or frustration. They could, for example, be experiencing sensory overload.
If they are frustrated, this is an excellent time to remove them from the situation and to show them breathing or relaxation techniques they should use when they feel that way to help them calm down.
It might take a while, but with some perseverance they may be able to learn to use them.
Prevent Negative Behaviors In Children With Autism
Discipline wouldnt be complete if it stopped with consequences or positive reinforcement. Teaching kids with autism ultimately involves preventing misbehavior from happening in the first place .
Return to your identification and understanding of the misbehavior. Use your observations to make some changes. Creating an environment that is calming, consistent, predictable, responsive, and rewarding is how to discipline an autistic child.
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Secondary School/high School Means Less Than You Think
Sounds difficult to believe, but trust me.
Back when I was at secondary school, it was the biggest part of my world. I was there five days a week, with people I liked and people I hated. Bullies dont need much ammunition, and I gave them loads. And when youre at school, each year can feel like a long time.
Then I left secondary school.
I never met the bullies ever again.
And I never worried about how bad I was at subjects I didnt care about.
And, best of all, nobody in the real world cared whether I was cool in Year 11.
Im serious! Those cool kids? Those popular guys who seem to love hurting people? I almost feel sorry for them. They had no idea that once they left school, that coolness would mean absolutely nothing.
I left school and eventually found my dream job. They left school and well, I actually dont know what they did. Truly dont care, to be honest. They might as well no longer exist.
I know that if you dont get on well with school, it can feel horrible.
But it does not last forever. And once its gone, its gone for good.
Edit- two months after uploading this, I wrote an article specifically devoted to bullying issues. If you need advice in this area, you can find the article here: 8 Tips for Coping with Bullying .
Focus On Meeting Your Autistic Childs Needs
Now we know discipline needs to start before a negative behavior, but what exactly do we do before the negative behaviors?
Well first, you focus on meeting your autistic childs needs.
So often behaviors are caused by a basic need thats going unmet.
I mean, how many times has your child had a meltdown and afterward, you realized that they hadnt eaten in hours?
And meeting needs gets more difficult with autistic children who cant always communicate their needs clearly.
So if you find yourself dealing with aggression or a meltdown, first try to think about what basic needs may be the root cause.
Think, has your child eaten lately? Are they thirsty? Have they gotten the sensory input they need? Did they have enough sleep last night?
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Disciplining A Child With Autism: Effective Strategies
Children with autism have a large number of stereotypical and maladaptive behaviors. Moreover, they are not able to pick up skills easily and learn through imitation like other children their age. Thus it is very important to teach and discipline a child with autism. However, the usual techniques that we use with children may not be effective. Here are a collection of researched and proven techniques that are effective to train and teach children with autism.
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How To Discipline Special Needs Kids
Over the years, as both an educator and a special needs mom, I have found that traditional discipline of autistic children seriously doesnt work well, particularly when they are little. Their ideas of the world are locked in a world of sensory dysfunctions and compulsive behaviors that make discipline normally challenging.
Special needs kids dont really know what triggered them and they seriously cannot tell you. As they get older, they become more verbal and may actually communicate what really caused them to meltdown. But, if your child remains nonverbal, you have the gift of knowing their behaviors and when something is going wrong.
Either way, training our kids remains the answer to teaching them self-regulation. In turn, we as parents need to become trigger detectives to figure out what the problem is in the first place.
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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.
Grooming And Personal Hygiene
Some teens may need reminders to shower and shave. They may not understand the importance of grooming to social acceptance, or they may have less social motivation to smell and look clean. “They may be rejected because of poor personal hygiene but may not connect one to the other, or they may not have the skills to address the issue,” Dr. Keefer said.
Ms. Sicile-Kira recommends doing detective work to determine why your teen is shower-averse. Does he understand the importance and mechanics of good hygiene? Is the problem sensory? Suppose he hates the sensation of water pounding on his body from a shower head. If that’s the case, she said, “Give him a plastic cup to pour water on his head, so he has control over the flow of water.”
Even with good hygiene, adolescence can be a time of frustration or uncertainty for almost anyone. The social world with its cliques and pecking order becomes decidedly more complex during high school. Factor in dating, with its own set of unwritten rules, and students with ASD may feel adrift.
Problems with social and communication skills can leave them particularly vulnerable to bullying. IAN research shows that children with ASD are bullied at a much higher rate than their unaffected siblings, and that bullying spikes from fifth to eighth grades for them.13
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How To Calm A Child With Autism
There are certain calming dos and donts that apply to most children with autism. These are based on the factors that autistic children have in common, specifically:
- Difficulty with understanding social norms and conventions
- Difficulty with following or using non-verbal communication
- Unawareness of others likely reactions to behaviors
- Sensory challenges that can get in the way of positive behaviors
- Lack of social motivation
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Theres A Difference Between Forcing Behaviors And Encouraging Independence
Ive learned from experience that trying to force independence is counterintuitive, whether or not your child is autistic.
When we push a child, especially one prone to anxiety and rigidity, their natural instinct is to dig their heels in and hold on tighter.
When we force a child to face their fears, and I mean screaming-on-the-floor petrified, like Whitney Ellenby, the mother who wanted her autistic son to see Elmo, we arent actually helping them.
If I was forced into a room full of spiders, I would probably be able to detach from my brain at some point to cope after about 40 hours of screaming. That doesnt mean I had some kind of breakthrough or success in facing my fears.
I also assume Id store those traumas and theyd invariably be triggered later in my life.
Of course, pushing independence isnt always as extreme as the Elmo scenario or a room full of spiders. All of this pushing falls on a spectrum ranging from encouraging a hesitant child to physically forcing them into a scenario that has their brain screaming danger.
When we let our children get comfortable at their own pace and they finally take that step of their own volition, true confidence and security grows.
That said, I understand where the Elmo mom was coming from. We know our kids would enjoy whatever activity if they would just try it.
We want them to feel joy. We want them to be brave and full of confidence. We want them to fit in because we know what rejection feels like.
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Children On The Autism Spectrum Are Not Dumb
Kids with autism have the potential to be absolutely brilliant. Theyre also talented, philosophical, kind, and creative. This is something much of society fails to see, but in truth, the autistic mind is simply wired differently than those not on the Autism Spectrum. Hans Christian Andersen, Emily Dickinson, Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Michelangelo, Mozart, and Sir Isaac Newton all are said to have exhibited autistic tendencies.
Set Clear And Simple Rules For Your Child
Express your expectations to your child in the most simplistic way possible. Since verbally telling them might not be enough, especially when disciplining an autistic child, add visual aids such as pictures or gestures to help them understand what sort of behaviour is expected of them.
Whatever method you choose to communicate with your child, keep the language simple and clear.
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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:
They May Suffer Sensory Difficulties
of course autism is a neurological and mental condition. Due to alteration of the anatomy of specific nerves of their body, these kids may have difficulty processing certain stimuli like pain and pressure. These kids also feel very uneasy at certain tastes, smells, or sounds. For instance, a child with high functioning autism may intensely dislike certain kinds of music.
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Listen To The Parents
Just as you surround a child with autism with acceptance, do the same for parents. Your support could mean the world to them.
Advocates explain that parents would love a night off to decompress and get away. If you feel comfortable with the idea, offer to babysit. If you dont, provide a listening ear to a parent in need. Schedule a regular coffee date for decompression and chatter, or set up play dates between your children while you both supervise.
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.
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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.
Autism Parents Seek Help For Behavioral Crises
Our child soon to be a teenager has autism, and there are times when we find ourselves in a true behavioral crisis. What can we do besides call 911?
So important is this question and so broad the situations and options that weve invited two experts to provide answers.
This response is from child psychologist Lark Huang-Storms. Dr. Huang-Storms works within Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network at Oregon Health and Science University, in Portland.
Check out Help for Child with Autism & Recurring Behavioral Crises: Part 2 for further perspective, including consideration of long-term residential treatment.
A meltdown can be really tough with a toddler and truly frightening in an adolescent or teenager both for those witnessing it and for the child who has lost control. With an adolescent, the stress of surging hormones and increasingly complex social expectations can mount faster than coping strategies can keep up. As a result, its not uncommon to see an increase in out-of-control behaviors.
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Let Natural Consequences Occur
Special needs children are toddlers in a larger body and cannot express themselves. This is where the rest of the world struggles for some reason. But, if you think it wont make things worse, this can work to make a passive sort of point.
- If they are late for something, then let them be late.
- If they miss the school bus, then find another way to get them to or from school.
- Did they miss a movie or event?
Let that be the lesson. Sometimes consequences speak the loudest because that is all they are focused on. Believe me, most kids will get the message.