Autism presents its own set of challenges when it comes to
parenting and disciplining at home and in school. Children with autism tend to have difficulty communicating,
and they typically either retreat into themselves or become frustrated and
angry. Follow some tips to
discipline children with autism more effectively.
Communication is often one of the most challenging tasks for
children with autism and their families or schools. Children with autism prefer concrete ways of thinking, and
communicating verbally and non-verbally can be difficult. When a child with autism becomes
frustrated with not understanding a situation or a way to communicate his
emotions, acting out with anger is a likely result. To discipline and help prevent this behavior, try a few
- Communicate through multiple modalities (use
written, verbal, gesture, or visual cues)
- Use short and concrete sentences; start with
simple sentences and work towards more complex ones
- Use positive statements -- suggest what you want
rather than what you don’t want
- Follow a daily schedule and use routines;
providing structure helps your child know what to expect
Discipline and Praise
When unwanted behaviors do occur, it is important to keep
your cool; rather than becoming angry and exasperated yourself, take a deep
breath and remember some hints for disciplining children and offering praise.
- Focus on the positive aspects of a
situation. If a child with autism
is yelling at his sibling, explain that it’s not nice to yell, but applaud him
on using words.
- Choose punishments that fit the crime, and make
sure the discipline makes sense to the child. If a child throws a toy, you take the toy away. If the child becomes upset, take a
moment to explain why throwing a toy is unacceptable and what responses will be
better in the future.
- Avoid physical punishments. Due to heightened senses that a child
with autism often feels, these reactions often feel exaggerated to the child
and can cause extreme pain and discomfort.
- Find opportunities to offer praise, and use it
often. If a child with autism does
something well or properly, let him know.
Many children with autism are treated with ABA therapy, or
applied behavioral analysis.
Utilize these same tools at home to discipline your child.
- Ensure your child receives positive
reinforcement for demonstrating useful skills and appropriate behaviors. This reinforcement can be anything from
giving your child a cracker to rewarding them with free play time.
- Practice useful communication skills; you might
need to prompt your child with phrases to help get him started.
- Give clear instruction and give your child a
chance to respond appropriately.
Reward appropriate behaviors.
If your child does not respond appropriately, give a gentle prompt and
allow the child another chance to respond the way you want.
Many of these tips are the same across the board of
parenting, and children with autism might need just a bit more positive
reinforcement or cues to understand and respond appropriately to situations. Preventing tantrums by using effective
communication, patience, schedules and routine, and practicing good behavior
are the most ideal tools for disciplining children with autism.
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