How to Discipline Children with Aspergers and HFA

Disciplining kids displaying behavior associated with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) will often require an approach that is somewhat unique to that of "typical" kids. Finding the balance between (a) understanding the needs of a youngster on the autism spectrum and (b) discipline that is age appropriate and situationally necessary is achievable when applying some simple but effective strategies.

In this post, we will look at the following:
  1. General Behavior Problems
  2. Obsessive or Fixated Behavior
  3. Sibling Issues
  4. Sleep Difficulties
  5. Problems at School
  6. Problems in Public
  7. Over-protective Parenting
  8. The Dignity of Risk

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  1. Re: I am wondering what is the difference between discipline vs punishing? What I mean is, what is considered discipline and what is considered punishing?

    Answer: Discipline is:

    • "Time-outs" that are open-ended and governed by the child's readiness to gain self-control
    • Acknowledging or rewarding efforts and good behavior
    • Consistent, firm guidance
    • Directed at the child's behavior, never the child
    • Giving children positive alternatives
    • Listening and modeling
    • Logical consequences that are directly related to the misbehavior
    • Physically and verbally non-violent
    • Positive, respectful
    • Re-directing and selectively "ignoring" minor misbehavior
    • Reflection and verbal give-and-take communication
    • Teaching children to internalize self-discipline
    • Teaching empathy and healthy remorse by showing it
    • Understanding individual abilities, needs, circumstances and developmental stages
    • Using mistakes as learning opportunities
    • When children follow rules because they are discussed and agreed upon
    • When children must make restitution when their behavior negatively affects someone else

    Punishment is:
    • "Time-outs" that banish a child for a set amount of time governed by the adult
    • Being told only what NOT to do
    • Children are punished for hurting others, rather than shown how to make restitution
    • Consequences that are unrelated and illogical to the misbehavior
    • Constantly reprimanding children for minor infractions causing them to tune-out
    • Controlling, shaming
    • Criticizing the child, rather than the child's behavior
    • Forcing children to comply with illogical rules "just because you said so"
    • Inappropriate to the child’s developmental stage of life
    • Individual circumstances, abilities and needs not taken into consideration
    • Negative and disrespectful of the child
    • Physically and verbally violent and aggressive
    • Reacting to rather than responding to misbehavior
    • Sarcastic
    • Teaching children to be controlled by a source outside of themselves
    • Teaching children to behave only when they will get caught doing otherwise
    • When children follow rules because they are threatened or bribed

    Discipline is guidance. When we guide children toward positive behavior and learning, we are promoting a healthy attitude. Positive guidance encourages a child to think before he acts. Positive guidance promotes self-control. Different styles of discipline produce results that are different. Discipline requires thought, planning, and patience.

    Punishment, on the other hand, is usually hitting, spanking, or any type of control behavior. Basically there are four kinds of punishment:
    • Penalizing the child with consequences that do not fit the crime: Example: "Because you told a lie, you can't have your allowance."
    • Physical: Slapping, spanking, switching, paddling, using a belt or hair brush, and so on.
    • With words: Shaming, ridiculing, or using cruel words.

    Punishment is usually used because:
    • It vents adult frustration
    • It's quick and easy
    • Parents don't know other methods
    • Punishment asserts adult power

    Punishment does not promote self discipline. It only stops misbehavior for that moment. Punishment may fulfill a short-term goal, but it actually interferes with the accomplishment of your long-term goal of self control.

    The consequences for children include the following lessons:
    • It is okay to hit people who are smaller than you are.
    • It is right to hit those you are closest to.
    • Those who love you the most are also those who hit you.
    • Violence is okay when other things don't work.
    Yesterday at 9:05am · Like · 2 people

  2. I have an 8 year old Aspie who's behaviour is getting worse and desipline is getting harder. He is refusing to do school work (he is in a special class geared for children like him) so they send it home along with homwork resulting in 4 hours of work a night and many, many tanturms. Their corrective approch is to have him write 20 sentences sentences on "I will no yell in class" or an essay on how he can control his anger. I'm not certain this is the best way to correct misbehaving. My husband and I take away his afterschool TV time or any "fun" time we had planned. We also have a reward chart for him every week with a fun family activity that we do on the weekends if he gets a certain amount of stars for doing what was asked. Nothing seems to be working, his behaviour is worse then ever. Any suggestions or tips would be greatly appreciated!

  3. I'm enjoying reading this thread. I'm sick and tired of being kicked, punched, screamed at, and everything else by my 5 year old son. His therapists/psychiatrist offer no guidance - only that there's no easy fix.

  4. That sounds like my little boy Devon. He hasnt yet had a diagnosis for Aspergers hes awaiting the assessment but he clearly has a form of ASD. The only problem is that his behaviour is horendous at home and everywhere else apart from school. He seems to keep a lid on the major behaviour issues at school probably because hes scared of getting into trouble at school, but them he lets it all out once he leaves the school gates. All the the professionals keep saying is well see how he goes and he isnt like that at school etc etc. Its so frustrating i feel like screaming at them! Ive got to the point where ive needed to record him on my mobile just to prove to everyone that im not a liar - It shouldnt need to be like that! People all over the world cry out for help and nothing is done until its too late! We know its no easy fix but a little support would make a whole lot of difference.

    1. It may be that he is less stressed at school, because his school may have a consistent and routine schedule, which seems to be a huge positive and critical to kids with aspergers. As my son's doc noted, kids with aspergers aren't setting out to intentionally annoy or hurt anyone. They look for reward and generally try much much harder in school to get things "right" than their non-aspergers classmates. By the time the end of the day comes, they've exhausted themselves. and if you think about it, who's schedule is routine on the weekends? Thats another point at which they can easily become stressed. I don't know what the answer is, but it may give you an insight into whats going on. I don't think it has anything to do with being scared of getting in trouble, but more to do with school is more structured and routine.

    2. That is my son all the way home in public families houses just not at school and my son is a twin his sister had an informal testing done where they sent home a ton of test for me to fill out and her scores stated aspergers and was told the other Dr would do the formal testing never happened then they said they want the school to do it my son also went in for evaluation she said from everything I've described he has all the signs for aspergers as well but insurance requires permission from them for those test she gave me for his sister and again they want the school to do the testing mean while I'm losing it I have 5 other kids and wish getting help wasn't so hard

    3. I feel your pain. My daughter is 9 and we are still waiting for assessment. She is the model pupil at school, Barr getting distracted and constantly falling out with and making new friends. She is awful at home and when we have a long day out and can be really nasty to her three year old sister which is heart breaking. Her step father and her are at logger heads all the time and I struggle with disciplining her. It always spirals out of control and ends up turning into punishment which I then punish myself for. I'm at a loss of what to do. We have a task chart but I think we need to expand it into behaving nicely with others. Any suggestions!?

    4. I have a friend with Aspergers. She suffers from social hangovers. It seems those with aspergers are overstimylated by "too much" social activity. I spent an evening with her and the next day she was feeling very tired and overwhelmed. Perhaps less time out?

  5. Shana, your son sounds like mine. The school just don't know what to do right now with a child who is smart but has behavior issues usually it is behavior issues and behind in learning. So he has to write sentences for when he is bad.
    about an hour ago · Like

  6. I'm the step mom of an 8 year old boy with Asperger's. His father and I have full custody. His mother was granted overnight visits about a year ago. Every time he comes home from a weekend visit, his behavior is markedly worse than it was before he left. He almost seems like he's acting out. Exhibiting very unageappropriate behaviors such as urinating in his bedroom, completely emptying full bottles of shampoo to make "bubble beards", chewing on pretty much anything he can get into his mouth, etc. Since I cannot convince either my husband nor his biological mother that he needs to be in counseling, is there any advice for trying to deal with these issues?

  7. I to have a 6 yr old aspie. He is like dr jekyl and mr hyde. When at home he is fun and calm. I have tried putting him in sports but example baseball started and he was interested. His personality changed as soon as he got on the field he was hitting, sticking out tongue pretty much annoying his team mates and their parents. I didnt know what else to do so i took him off the team and worked with him myself. Any suggestions as I hate for him to be left out

  8. I have a four year old with Aspurger's it hasn't been formally diagnosed . The only doc that has seen him has said he doesnt have autism. Which on the other side of the spectrum of aspurgers. He acts like this ALL the time. I'm afraid to take him anywhere because of it and I don't know what to do as far as dicipline goes.

  9. It's so hard when my 10 year old with Aspergers meltdown. The screaming is unbelievable. I admit i am too permissive so today we stepped up the discipline and he blew his lid. I am permissive because I feel so bad for him. At school he has no friends and is completely ostracized.

  10. My amazing little boy with ADHD an ASD has seen both sides of this. Punishment always produced the same results as stated above...not good for any of us. One day, a practitioner gave us a 10 page printout of how to work with our son. Error free learning, positive discipline only, a scaffolding or structure to help him succeed, pictures to show him the way, stories about what his day would be like, and lots of fun little games to make transitions better. He did a stint with an occupational therapist to help us all know what he needs in his world to keep him calm and capable. We were part of the therapy and learned so much!After six months, he is doing great. By great, I mean that he loves himself, feels successful, is more calm, has a good relationship with family, friends and teachers, and is kind more often than not. The more positive we are, the more progress we make.

    1. Thank you, anyway to get a link to those 10 pages of awesome discipline guidelines and suggestions? Good for you and your child, so reassuring. Thank you.

    2. I am in desperate need of this link as well. Please help!

    3. Can I please get help on this? My 8 year old was diagnosed with speach delay and ADHD with some signs of Asperger's and autism Signs. I would love to have the awesome 10 Page's of discipline?

  11. I have 5 yr old twins one boy one girl my daughter has had issues since day one and was behind on all mile stones Easter seals was with us till age three then turned over to the school district she is very emotional worries a lot has strange behavior doesn't know how to tell certain emotions in an appropriate manner you have to be careful what you say to her or what others say to her because she will dwell on it and become angry or cry and WONT stop no matter what you do and very loudly I might add she hits a lot over every and anything shows very little to no emotions when she does hurtful things to ppl and very stubborn and has a blank look on her face when you ask her to do things like she's just not computing what you just my son on the other hand we started dealing with night terrors at 4 months old he met all mile stones some early very smart excelled fast then we hit one and the temper tantrums started horrible tantrums all day every day he would slam his head on the tile on the sliding glass door on walls and did I mention at about 6 months naps where a thing of the past and prior they were short lived and since then sleeping is such a struggle we have now graduated to tantrums of a larger scale along with self harm violent hitting and extremely stubborn has a lot of anxiety doesn't do well with the tv or radio loud nor chaos or fitting or argueing going somewhere is so stressful he doesn't really like going anywhere he throws a fit when we have to leave to go anywhere and help is so hard to come by here just glad to here there are other ppl going through the same and I'm not crazy

  12. I also have enjoyed reading the comments. It helps to know that we are not alone. My daughter is 5. She was diagnosed with developmental delays at age 2 for speech. We qualified for speech therapy, and that helped her a lot. We really started to notice problems when she started Kindergarten here in SC. After days of being sent home from school because of her behavior and melt downs, the school finally did an evaluation on her. I kept on insisting that something more was going on with her. She doesn't seem to act that bad with me at home. A few ago, they diagnosed her with High Functioning Autism. They are trying to develop a plan for her at school to help and teach her with her behavior. However, not even two days after I had a meeting with them over this plan, she gets sent home from school for biting another child and throwing a toy that hit another child in the face. The first thing she asked me when I had to come pick her up was, "Can I go to Legacy?" Legacy is how she refers to the after-school daycare. Of course here, she has more freedom and there are less children. It almost seems like she is doing these things to be sent home. She doesn't like school. I know they are trying but I don't think she should be in the normal classroom with 24 students and two teachers. At this point, I am just trying to find a place that specializes in Autism that she can go to. Also, I'm trying to do a lot of research on things I can do here at home. But it looks like I might have to quit my job to give her more help. Thank you everyone, for sharing your stories.

    1. Good luck. I feel your pain. Luckily my son is finally being assessed but he has all the signs of high functioning Asbergers. He has been shutting down just recently for a few reasons school is getting harder, he is experiencing some other challenges with needing snacks a couple of times throughout his day to stay focused, he doesn't like when things don't go as he expects, it is upsetti g for him and yet that is inevitably going to happen sometimes. He loves a Children's Center because it is quiet and he can be alone. It sounds like your child may be doing exactly what the article said, misbehaving on purpose to go to her safe place. One teacher my son had in first grade had a student with ASD and made a quiet corner with pillows in the class behind a small bookshelf by the sink for her to get away from the class when she felt emotionally overwhelmed (even noise cancelling headphones could help). It helped the student a lot. I dont know if you have a 504 or an IEP but those can help her have consistency from one teacher to the next. Empathy needs to be taught logically with my son too, I have to tell him to imagine being the student whose feelings were hurt by something he said or did, and point out that he doesn't like the way it feels when he is hurt, neither does the other child. I have him apologize. He hates being wrong but understands his behavior has consequences. He also loves routines and awards. I work with his teacher to award him at home when he does well in school. Your daughter needs to feel comfortable at school (maybe she is bored or doesn't like being with the other side students). I hope you will find solutions and she can find success.

  13. My son Robert is such a happy child. Does well in school academically and socially. He does have his days of " high activity". However when he gets home he lets it all out. Especially when it comes to " screen time, which usually consist of YouTube videos about airplanes and nature. How much screen time should a child with Aspergers get. He plays outside in the back yard, plays the violin, loves reading and is on the track and field team for the 2016 Special Olympics in Michigan. When he can't have screen time he loses it! Help.

    1. My son has ASD w/ADHD. We cut him down to 30 minutes screen time, and no video games or tv starting 2 hours before bed.

  14. My son has ASD with ADHD. He is adopted and has lived witg us since he was 2 months old. We have had formal testing. He sees a counsellor, psychiatrist, and since last November, he's having neurofeedback sessions. These weekly treatments have been extremely helpful. As a parent, I would like to say, taking care of him is trying. Listening and seeing outsiders disapproval is frustrating. We've tried punishment and discipline, and I wish I was more educated in the past, if so, we would have never punished him. Now he has anxiety issues along with his original problems. We've tried holistic treatments and prescription medications, neither of which helped. We have found avoiding gluten and red dye is helpful. Recently he had another evaluation, which only diagnosed him anxiety with Adhd. This days after we finally got him approved for a 504, after being denied a year and a half ago for an IEP. I did not agree with his second evaluation and asked if they tested any sensory issues, they said no. So now we are planning to have sensory testing. I also asked if the neurofeedback would have interfered with their testing results and the response was, "yes." Needless to say we are frustrated with the school, who uses a deputy to speak with their students, for What we see as "scare tactics," & we've asked the school not to do this our son.

  15. Can a asbergers syndrome child have good social skills. My son is having trouble at school and is borderline depression.

  16. My son functions well with kids younger than him. He is in the second grade and has developed friendships with his classmates. We started him on neurofeedback this past November, which has been phenomenal for him! Knowing his sensory triggers will help, & staying positive.I remind my son to choose joy when the triggers come. I give him math problems to switch his brain over when he starts into a meltdown, it really helps. Our kids aren't robots, we as parents can't be narcissist with our children, so respect is truly present when received by them. I hope this helps you!

  17. I have resisted having my daughter being 'diagnosed' with Aspergers..My sis in law is a registered speech therapist that deals with autistic children and we have both confirmed that she is well on the spectrum..anyhow she has never had toomany violent outbursts and she is very obedient..the problem I have is that she doesn't care about consequence..and when I say that I mean it quite literally NOTHING sways this kid..her main problem is forgetting the sequence of basic living responsibilities..when you remind her, she acknowledges it, apologizes, and then promptly forgets the next time comes to doing whatever what needs to be done..I have tried putting a checklist on the fridge and in her room of things she needs to do but she gets distracted and focuses on the narrow interests and stories in her head..she is 13 now but I worry that this pattern will continue for the rest of her life..taking away things or enjoyable outing receive no recognition, she literally,as I said, does not care..I don't know what else to try, when I talk to her about it, she again says she is sorry and seems remorseful that I'm so angry

    1. Sounds A LOT like my 7 year old...Never been assessed... But wondering...

  18. I have Asperger’s myself and discipline was hard. Nothing worked on me and only made my behavior worse. I would not sit in timeout and if something was taken away from me I was devastated and melted down