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.
Who Tells/where To Tell
Certainly circumstances vary from family to family. If your child is asking questions dont put off answering them. You should be forthcoming and not suggest talking about it later. Not providing an answer could increase the childs anxiety and make the topic and information more mysterious.
For many families, using a knowledgeable professional to begin the disclosure process instead of a family member or a friend of the family might be the best option. Having a professional involved, at least in the beginning stages of disclosure, leaves the role of support and comfort to the family and those closest to the child. For someone with an autism spectrum disorder, it can be especially hard to seek comfort from someone who gives you news that can be troubling and confusing. Having a professional whose role is clearly to discuss information about the childs diagnosis and how the disability is affecting his/herlife can make it easier for family members to be seen by the child as supportive. The professional discussing information with the child about his/her disability can also help the parents understand the childs reaction and provide suggestions for supporting their child. Having a professional involved also allows the use of a location outside of the family home for beginning this process.
If Speaking Doesnt Work Try Writing
If you get to sticking points in the conversation, try restating what you just said on paper. Draw a picture or write the words down and show them. ASD patients tend to think visually, so even if they dont immediately understand what they just heard, they might get the same message if you put it on paper so they can see it.
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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.
Facing The Demands Of High School
Meanwhile, the demands on teens increase dramatically. By high school, students are expected to change classes hourly, keep track of books and assignments for each class, follow complex directions, complete multi-phase projects, and turn in homework on time.
Amy Keefer, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, said schools and parents can help teens who struggle with planning, organization and other executive skills.
“Teens on the spectrum will require a greater level of external supports from family and the school,” Dr. Keefer said. Those supports may take the form of frequent parent-school communication, teachers checking assignment books to make sure they’re filled out correctly, and teachers helping students break down projects into smaller steps, with due dates for each step, she said.
Many elementary schools provide those types of organizational supports, plus help with social skills, she said. However, educators often reduce or eliminate such help in middle or high school, when students are expected to be more self-sufficient.
“In general, as you move up the grades, the amount of support and scaffolding you get from teachers drops off,” agreed Dr. Rosenthal.
That can cause problems. “For most kids on the spectrum, they need those supports throughout their school careers,” Dr. Keefer said.
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Not Everything Is Your Fault
In one of my earliest posts, 50 important facts about having mild autism, I detailed the great number of things that are interpreted as Our Fault. Take a look at #7 to #10.
7) If you dont notice that a girl is interested in you, its Your Fault. Not theirs for not bothering to actually tell you.
8) If someone drops an extremely subtle hint and it goes over your head, its Your Fault. Not theirs for not bothering to actually tell you.
9) If you ask people whether they want the last potato and everyone says no, thats fine, its Your Fault if you take it. You should have read them correctly and interpreted their no as a yes. Because thats what normal people do, apparently.
10) We find it difficult to read people, and thats Our Fault. Meanwhile other people find us difficult to read, and thats Our Fault too.
So, allow me to show the difference between what is actually our fault and what is not.
It IS NOT your fault if people misunderstand you when youre trying to be nice.
It IS your fault if you choose to be deliberately nasty to people.
It IS NOT your fault if youre quiet around people because you are honestly uncomfortable with them.
It IS your fault if you dont talk to people because you cant be arsed.
It IS NOT your fault if you find other people difficult to like because theyve made you feel like the odd one out.
It IS your fault if you choose to hate other people just because theyre different to you.
Make sure you get the balance right!
If Someone Has Asd Recognizing Their Symptoms Of Depression Can Be Challenging
There are several aspects of ASD that overlap with symptoms of depression, including difficulty identifying and accurately reporting mood, constricted range of facial expression, sleep problems, and social withdrawal. Because of this overlap, an assessment of depression should involve multiple observers . An assessment should also take into account whether there is a change in your teenagers usual behavior and functioning. Symptoms of depression typically persist for at least two weeks and represent a clear change from their typical behavior.
Some features of depression that may be more prominent in teenagers with ASD include an increase in ASD-related behaviors, irritability, and self-injurious behaviors. Many teenagers with ASD have very specific interests. These interests can become less appealing to the teenager, or shift to become more morbid during depression for example, someone who enjoys drawing cartoon characters may draw more unhappy characters. You may also notice more crying, aggressive behaviors, and a decline in self-care, like refusing to bathe or eat meals. Although many parents worry that puberty itself may cause worsened aggression, this is often not the case, and the possibility of depression should be taken seriously.
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Older Children And Teenagers
Communication can be characterised by very limited use of language or they may use it excessively, they may have a flat tone to their voice and repeat certain phrases over and over. They might talk at others rather than having a back and forth conversation, or talk mostly about their topics of interest. In interactions with others, they may not understand facial expressions and non-verbal cues, have difficulty with small talk and have a limited range of responses in social situations. They may also find it difficult to use gestures, facial expressions and eye contact when talking to others.
Focus On What You Want The Child To Do Not What You Want Them To Stop Doing
How many of you have screamed at your child, STOP SCREAMING?!!!! with crazed eyes and clinched fists?
Minimize the use of dont and stop. For example, Walk on the sidewalk can be much more effective than Dont walk on the grass for a child who might not hear the dontor for one who isnt sure where the acceptable place to walk might be. This lets the child know exactly what you WANT them to do. Stop screaming becomes, Quiet please, Dont color on the table becomes Only color on the paper. Its counter-intuitive to the ways most of us usually parent but it works. There are times when theres NO WAY around a dont/stop statement. DONT COLOR ON THE DOG. STOP HITTING YOUR BROTHER. Use your best judgement- youll figure out when you need to lay down the DONT law.
Here I ignore his screaming because he was mad that I gave one of his cars to his brother when he didnt want to share.
Here I praise him, Great job being quiet and playing with your cars.I know, it feels a little weird at first, ignoring your child while they are screaming or throwing themselves on the ground. But when they do that, they are attention seeking and giving them any kind of attention reinforces that behavior. They will learn it doesnt work and realize they get more attention when their behavior is good.
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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 .
Difference Between Meltdowns Tantrums And Aggression
Aggression in kids with ASD refers to violent behavior that may include kicking, hitting, throwing objects, punching, and biting. Aggressive behavior can be directed to others or oneself. Both a meltdown and a tantrum can involve aggression.
Outside of sensory overload that leads to a meltdown, there are other reasons why a child with autism uses aggression. Some children become violent when an object of comfort is taken away from them, or when they are forced into something they do not want to do.
The key goal of handling aggression is to ensure the safety of the child and others around him/her. Some strategies would be removing the cause of aggression, providing calming toys and/or activities, and giving your child a safe space where he/she can calm down.
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Remember They Are Just Kids
Autistic kids may not act a lot like neurotypical children, but remember youre still talking to someone whose thoughts and attitudes are being formed in an immature brain.
With a little practice, you may find that you can talk to autistic kids just as easily as any kid. The results, for both you and the child, can be both positive in terms of their development of communication skills and enjoyable as you make an interpersonal connection.
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.
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Help During A Meltdown
We tend to expect a lot from children with autism. They thrive in environments that are calm, familiar, and supportive. But we often ask them to succeed in grocery stores, airports, and classrooms.
When children with autism are overwhelmed, they can experience meltdowns. Meltdowns can involve:
- Withdrawal. The child retreats to an inner world and stops talking altogether. The child may perform repetitive actions like rocking or hand flapping to self-soothe.
- Tantrums. The child cries, screams, stomps their feet, or curls into a ball.
Parents often become adept at dealing with these episodes, but always ask if you can help. You could ask a restaurant to turn down the music, for example, while a mother attempts to calm her child.
You can also intervene directly. Experts suggest using a gentle voice and simple commands. Tell the child, Get up, and stand next to me. If the child cant respond, stay nearby and let the meltdown work through. When the child seems calmer, try the instructions.
Try Movement During Learning
Although many children with and without autism are capable of learning while in a classroom environment, some kids on the spectrum make better progress while moving. According the Temple Grandin, noted autism expert, many kids display better interaction and verbal skills when they are on a swing. Also try a trampoline, a rocking balance board, and other motor options.
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Look For The Early Signs
Clearly, its better to avoid an explosion than find yourself dealing with one. Sometimes an attentive parent can learn to recognize triggers and spot signs that tension is escalating. Your childs behavioral therapist may be able to help you here. I find that parental attentiveness to emotional clues is particularly important for children with autism, who tend to have difficulty self-monitoring.
How Do I Keep The Conversation Going
Just as you like to talk about your favorite things, so do other people. So when you’re together, ask another person questions like: “What do you do for fun?” or “What’s your favorite show?” Asking questions show that you’re interested in your friend.
Now keep the conversation going. When the person answers you , comment on it. Say something back, like “I have a dog, too!” or “What’s your dog’s name?” You might even nod your head and repeat back what the other person is saying, such as “Oh, your dog’s name is Spot.” This lets other people know that you’ve been listening and understand what they said. Taking turns talking back-and-forth like this is what makes a conversation.
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The Potential For Seizures Can Increase During Puberty
The chance of your autistic teen having seizures during puberty is four to one. The cause is not known but is believed to be brought about by hormonal changes in the body.
Teens with autism might also experience subclinical seizures during puberty. Subclinical seizures are seizures that are too faint that they can go unnoticed. Several diagnostic tests can be done to find out if a teen with autism is experiencing seizures so if you have a concern, contact your childs doctor.
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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Thank You For Your Interest In Our Workshops
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Support Available For Autistic Children When Becoming Teenagers
Some local authorities have charities operating within them, so search the website of your local author to see what support is available. Some offer buddying volunteers for young people with autism who would otherwise have no peer friendships, while others provide support groups for parents and advice on how to navigate the Education, Health and Care Plan process.
For more details on Aspris Children’s Services, please call 0118 970 8068 or
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