Discipline and the
Child with ASD
Feb. 19th, 2009
What other parents are doing
Removing favored objects / activities
Go to your room!
Why don’t these work?
Autism is a neurologically based
– Child may not understand the language
– Child may not understand the repercussions
– Child may not be able to ‘think ahead’ to
know when or when not to do something.
– Child may not care / issue has no meaning
– Child may just ignore you
– Child will argue with you till kingdom come
about why you are wrong.
Hyposensitive child (i.e. won’t feel it won’t
matter anyway) versus the Hypersensitive
child (experiences the pain much
Child who is self-injurious may LIKE it,
which is exactly the opposite of what
parents are trying to accomplish with
Time is an abstract concept. Children on
the spectrum don’t often understand
abstract language or concepts.
Doesn’t tell the child what TO do.
Removing objects and activities
touch the WII!!!
The phrase, “You’re grounded” has a
whole different meaning to a literal
thinking child on the spectrum. He / she
is probably thinking something about
electricity when you say this!
Might be too abstract and too long of a
time. If you ground a child for a month,
they’ve forgotten what they did in the first
Go To Your Room!
It’s probably what the child wants
The room is the safe zone for most kids.
A king in his castle!
It’s more of a reward than a punishment.
Stop it! Would you quit? Don’t do that!
What were you thinking? What is wrong
What’s wrong with these phrases?
If you yell, the child will yell. If you curse
when angry, the child will too.
Doesn’t solve anything!
Doesn’t model the behavior you want!
Doesn’t teach the child anything at all!
When it might be appropriate is with
Repeat repeat repeat
Sometimes may need to use hand over
hand, or guide the child to what they
should be doing
Role playing / drama / practice
appropriate behavior when NOT angry
Use Positive Language
Never say no, don’t, can’t—realistically
speaking of course!
If you have visual rules, make sure you
have the rules for what you CAN do!
Give choices—you can do this or that.
I need you to…
The most powerful phrase in the world!
Used in the Child Development Lab at EIU
with enormous success!
Tells the child what you expect of them
and what they should be doing. Not what
Make it visual!
When in doubt, write it out! Schedule it!
Describe what they should be doing
Circles Technique / Have Dreams uses
Write a contract—seriously some of our Aspie
kids would find this to be just the right kind of
‘concreteness’ to understand the problem!
Take pictures of the appropriate behavior.
Social stories can work—but leave out the
inappropriate behavior, it just puts ideas in their
Find the good
As Georgia Winson (TAP) says, “Catch ‘em being
Reward good behavior when you see it! Reward
charts are useful but don’t make the child wait
till the end of the week or month for
something—that’s too long and too abstract.
Use praise when you see good behavior! Be
specific in your praise, don’t just say good job.
“I like how you…”
Pick your battles
Everything cannot be a struggle, some
things you have to let go.
You cannot win every battle, you cannot
only have your viewpoint. You cannot be
as inflexible as the child with ASD.
Listen to and observe what the child has
problems with and work with that in a
Don’t change the rules mid-game.
Keep with a system that BOTH caregivers
are on board with. If one parent does one
thing and the other parent is drastically
different, the child is simply confused
about what to do!
What if nothing is working?
Start at the beginning and think it through
using the frame of autism!
Doesn’t have to be anything as fancy as a
functional analysis, but keep a behavior
What if nothing is working?
Look for other components such as:
Sensory problems (is this a can’t issue?)
Communication problems (can he / she truly
express the problem or is anger all that comes
Executive dysfunction playing a role?
Is this an obsession that we can’t control but we
can redirect, shape, and mold to something more
From Blind Children in the Family and Community by
“The question in the art of discipline is really not how and
when to punish a child but rather how to help him be
cooperative, constructive, and responsible. Any parent
tries to teach his child what is expected of him—willingly,
at the right time, and at a reasonable speed. As the
child learns to think and do things for himself, and
becomes willing to assume responsibility for his actions,
parents can relax and begin to relinquish controls.
Turning over controls to the child is naturally a gradual
process. Reminders and words of guidance will still be
needed, even though a child has succeeded in taking
over responsibility for a certain part of his daily routine.
But such reminders can be positive, supportive words
rather than tense, critical, or angry ones. Experience
clearly shows that a thoughtful, firm, and supportive
approach will bring the best results in the long run.”