How to Discipline an Autistic Child

Is it autism or just bad behavior?

Discipline is helping your child learn how to behave – as well as how not to behave. It works best when you have a warm and loving relationship with your child. Discipline and discipline strategies are positive. They’re built on talking and listening. They guide all children towards:

  • Knowing what behavior is appropriate – whether it’s at home, a friend’s house, child care, preschool or school.
  • Managing their own behavior and developing important skills like the ability to get along well with others, now and as they get older.
  • Learning to understand, manage and express their feelings.

Autism vs tantrums

It’s 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 isn’t always an easy thing to do, but there are 2 tools you can use to make an accurate assessment.

ABC Behavior Chart

An ABC Chart is a direct observation tool used to collect information about a child’s behavior.

  • Antecedent:”A” refers to the antecedent or the event or activity that immediately precedes a problem behavior.
  • Behavior: “B” refers to observed behavior or the child’s response.
  • Consequence: “C” refers to the consequence or the event that immediately follows a response.

The Iceberg Model

According to this theory model, the bad conducts or behaviors that we observe in our children are only the ‘tip’ of a much bigger iceberg. Since only about 10% of an iceberg is visible to the eye, it is theorized that the drivers of our child’s behaviors live beneath the surface and that we must find a way to see and understand these drivers before change can occur. Complementing this technique along with the ABC Behavior Chart helps us to discover what unleashes those behaviors and give us the insight to discover that 90% that might be causing our child’s behavior.

5 Discipline strategies for children with autism spectrum disorder Like all children, children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) benefit from:

  • praise and rewards for appropriate behavior.
  • clear rules about behavior.
  • consequences for inappropriate behavior.

These discipline strategies are explained below, along with some ways that you can change them to suit the development and understanding of your child with ASD.

1.- Praise 
Praise is when you tell your child what you like about his behavior. When your child gets praise for behaving well, he’s likely to want to keep behaving well. Descriptive praise is when you tell your child exactly what it is that you like. It’s best for encouraging good behavior – for example, ‘Thank you for staying calm when you didn’t win the game’.

2.- Rules 
Rules are positive statements that let children know how they’re expected to behave and what the limits are in your family. The rule might be that your child can’t play in the morning until she’s 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 she can play for the time left on the timer. If the timer has finished, there’s no time to play.

3.- Consequences
A consequence is something that happens after your child behaves in a particular way. Consequences can be positive or negative. Consequences are a good way to back up rules – that is, when your child breaks a rule, you give him a consequence. When you use consequences in the same way and for the same behavior every time, your child knows what to expect.

This means it’s good to plan consequences if you can. For example, if your child is fighting over a toy, you put the toy away for 10 minutes, or if your child swears she might lose TV time.
When you’re planning consequences, it’s best not to stop or reduce the time your child with ASD spends on his area of intense interest. Your child probably finds his interest calming, so stopping him from doing it could lead to more misbehavior. It’s best to use more positive consequences for good behavior than negative consequences for bad behavior. Praising your child or giving positive consequences for good behavior six times for every negative consequence is a good ratio.

4.- Time-out
Time-out can be a useful consequence if your child has hurt someone else, or destroyed something. It can give your child a chance to calm down away from the situation. Time-out involves taking your child away from interesting activities and not giving him attention for a short period of time.

5.- Punishment
Discipline doesn’t always – or even often – mean punishment. Punishment is giving your child a negative consequence when she breaks a rule or misbehaves. It’s a way of letting your child know that her behavior isn’t acceptable. For example, your child might use a toy in a dangerous way, like throwing it. The punishment might be that you take away the toy for a set amount of time. It can help to show your child with a visual timer for how long the punishment will last.

REMEMBER physical punishment – for example, smacking – doesn’t teach children how to behave. And it can hurt your child.

At World Stem Cell Clinic, we believe that that having an informed parent –in an effort to empower him and his family– is the only way to for us to deliver optimal healthcare. Visit our website to find out more about our services and let us be part of your journey. You are not alone!