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How do you effectively discipline a child with Aspergers?


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. 


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.

My Aspergers Child: Preventing Meltdowns and Tantrums in Aspergers Children


Anonymous said...

Hi Mark,
Thank you for the resource you are providing. We live in a small town in Louisiana and have few local resources. After reading many books on Asperger's, I came to the conclusion that this is definitely our 10-year old son, Travis. We took him to an out-of-town psychologist who told me to stop reading "pop psychology books" and that our son scored 26 on the Autism scale and he did NOT have Asperger's. I think Travis is very smart on paper and can answer all the questions correctly when tested. However, real life is another story. It is blatantly obvious to me that I have an Asperger's child. He struggles socially. His two narrow interests are bugs and plants. He cannot make small talk with boys about sports or anything else. He talks INCESSANTLY, always always turning the conversation back to his topics and that gets old with other children! He is very bubbly and happy when allowed to pursue his interests. We homeschool and I allow him to do this as much as possible. He has grandiose ideas and often melts down when I cannot allow him to fulfill these ideas (building a 10ft+ butterfly house, etc). We struggle with getting school and chores done. Everyday he yells at me. Everyday he melts down usually several times. Often he hits me. I do feel as though I am treading on eggshells. I have read The Explosive Child by Dr. Green. The family ends up catering to Travis all day long in order to avoid meltdowns. At the same time, we are trying to teach him that it's not always "all about him". I am hoping to figure out some sort of balance here. Our 8 year-old daughter is very gentle and kind but even she has started to yell and hit him lately. I don't want him damaging his relationship with her. I just signed up for your Online Parent Support so have not listened /read any of your materials yet. I look forward to getting some helpful information. We love our son dearly and desire to help him as best we can.

Anonymous said...

We had our 5 year old tested (expensive). They spent all of 20 minutes with him and said he did not have Aspergers. His school has had him certified. You know your child best. He does sound as if he has asperger-like behaviors. I feel you've made a good decision to pursue advice on parenting Asperger children. If anything, it couldn't hurt. You don't need a diagnosis, especially if you home-school.

Anonymous said...

Whoever wrote the comment posted on Sept. 23rd is describing my son 120%. My son was diagnosed with severe Asperger's Syndrome by two psychologists at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and a behavioral specialist. So, yes, you are right on target on your diagnosis. Definitively, mothers know best!

Anonymous said...

wow this sounds so much like my son he was diagnosed by the school as having a developmental disorde and by a nuerologist as having aspergers syndrome.
He is often violent and when he is given a natural consequence as in if u hit me u when i tell you to get off the xbox then you dont get to pay xbox tommorow thats when things get ten times worse so id rather overlook all the infractions that need a disciplinary action than disciplin him and go into a three hour nightmare i know this is wrong its what i do to keep peace.

Anonymous said...

I have an aspergers son he was also born deaf and has had several surgeries to correct his hearing... You still have to discipline or they will never be able to function in the outside world. It's sooooo much work but I just tell myself its so he can have as close to a "normal" life with friends (were working on this) and family(because they just think he's a bad kid)! It has made a world of difference to start weekly therapy for him... Behavioral, speech & cognitive! We also have a sticker calendar he can earn up to two a day. One for doing his chore and one for behavior and if you get ten stickers you get a "date" with mom or dad by yourself! It makes him see its up to him to follow directions and earn those. He also has a "quiet" place were he can go and be left alone if I can tell the meltdowns coming. When he's calmed down we talk, draw pictures do whatever to get him to see what he shoulda done differently. Do we still have meltdowns most definitely but its much less. Parents and siblings have to get some attention and peace too.

Anonymous said...

This is so my son. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

AAARGH really need to read this! Can't open this on my phone and my internet is down and I specifically come on here to ask advice about discipline ... Have a 16yr old who keeps breaking curfew and having utter meltdowns when punishment (usually only a one day "grounding") is enforced - its like she morphs into a two year old screaming and shouting and lashing out ... Scares the bejesus out of my four year old - Just don't know how i'm meant to deal with it :(

Anonymous said...

Just like any other of my kids. Aspergers or not he still has to be taught right from wrong. Once we realized this and started enforcing it hw showed that he was capable of controlling himself much better

Anonymous said...

it's my experience that you have to put consequences there for them. It may be tougher for them to learn the same things other kids do sometimes, but they will, with the same restrictions, the same expectations, the same boundaries as any other kids

Coffee_Cassie said...

I have learned with my 8yo Aspergers son that using language like "I expect" works best. I can give a concrete timeframe, such as "I'm going to sweep the floor. While I do that, I expect you to make your bed. Remember, making your bed means that each blanket is straightened neatly and all of your stuffed animals are on it. We'll check in 2 minutes to see who is done first."

It is a LOT of talking and explaining, but it gets things done. I have also found that printing off checklists for him helps. Now when I tell him "clean your room", he has a list right by his light switch that he can look at and identify step 1: make bed. Step 2: pick up all clothes from floor. Step 3: pick up books. Step 4: pick up garbage. Step 5: put clean clothes away and dirty clothes in hamper. Now it's less overwhelming for him.

We do a great deal of pre-teaching also. one example being "R, it's Sunday. Today we're going to dress nicely and go to church. When we get to church, we'll take your brother to his class and you will come sit quietly and calmly next to me. Let's pack a coloring book and some crayons so that you don't get bored. Would you like to borrow my Bible so that you can follow along with the grown ups?"

This way, my son knows what to expect, and also knows what is expected of him. It also allows him some control over what he brings with.

We also use stickers, one for each thing done well. During the week, his stickers earn him technology time, which he desperately wants. The only rule to his earned time is that an adult must be in the room with him while he uses it.

This solution won't work for every family, but these are strategies that we employ regularly and they work for us.

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the ASD child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

Click here to read the full article…

How to Prevent Meltdowns in Children on the Spectrum

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's or HFA child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and your child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

Click here for the full article...

Parenting Defiant Teens on the Spectrum

Although Aspergers [high-functioning autism] is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager on the spectrum are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

Click here to read the full article…

Older Teens and Young Adult Children with ASD Still Living At Home

Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with ASD face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

Click here to read the full article…

Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

Click here
to read the full article...

Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and HFA

Become an expert in helping your child cope with his or her “out-of-control” emotions, inability to make and keep friends, stress, anger, thinking errors, and resistance to change.

Click here for the full article...