How do you effectively discipline a child with Aspergers?

Question

How do you discipline a child with Aspergers? Nothing I'm doing is working, and quite honestly, it seems to make matters worse as every attempt leads to a meltdown! Help!! I'm running out of options. 

Answer

Unfortunately, I see a number of teachers saying, "It's a matter of discipline!" Well, sure. Certainly having Aspergers (high-functioning autism) is not a license to do whatever you want to do, and there must be natural consequences. But with the youngster with Aspergers, one must spend more time explaining what they did that was wrong, why it was wrong, what he is supposed to do instead, and how to know when he is supposed to do it.

Quite often, when the youngster is very emotional and upset, it is not a good time to explain these things. When the Aspergers child has emotion – he does not have logic. Look at love. Love is never logical. The same goes with anger or distress. So, that may not be the time to explain consequences, etc.

You may need to deal with the situation when the Aspergers youngster is relaxed… possibly a couple of hours later. You can say, “Okay let's learn from this. Let's go through what happened.” Often what you find is a miscommunication or a misinterpretation by one or both parties. Both parties need to see the perspective of the other. But the time to do that may be when the Aspergers child is reasonable – not emotional. We do drawing, pictures and social stories… all these sorts of things to go through that process.

Often the Aspergers youngster won't follow the rules unless he sees a logical reason why, or if he sees a value to himself. And, if you talk about "people won't like you" - who cares? Or, "do it to please your teacher" - why should I please her? So what we have to use is a very concrete approach.

For example, “If you do this, this happens… If you do that, the other happens...” …and so on. But your explanation has to be very logical – almost like having a rule book. “There are consequences for what you do, and this is the logic.”

If you start getting into complicated personal relationships, you will never get your message across to the Aspergers child or teen. You have to be quite firm in the consequences with that child, but you do need to spend time explaining things.

For example, if you have an Aspergers child who has hurt his sister, you can say, "Say sorry" …and the Aspergers child says "sorry" …and as far as he is concerned, that's the end of it! But he also must do, or donate, something to his sister (e.g., tidy his sister's room or share a chocolate bar that he was going to have at lunch time). He could also make an apology card. The point being – he must actually do something tangible, rather than just "sorry," and that's it.

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