Creating Successful Behavior Charts for Kids on the Autism Spectrum

Behavior charts consist of two primary components: (1) parental expectations (e.g., doing chores, behaving, handling self-care tasks, etc.) and (2) the reward for meeting such expectations.

Behavior charts can be very effective in getting kids to do what moms and dads want. But often times, parents find that their Aspergers or high-functioning autistic (HFA) children don't respond to charts – either because the concept is too abstract, or the gratification is too delayed. Adjusting and simplifying the chart to your youngster’s particular needs and abilities can make the difference between success and failure with this particular parenting technique.

Here's how to successfully employ behavior charts for children on the autism spectrum:

1. Be sure to have plenty of consistency, patience and a willingness to try new ideas.

2. Coupons for desired activities (or avoidance of undesired ones) can serve as a good tangible reward for behavior-chart goals. Try pre-made printable coupons (see below) or create some of your own.

3. Don't load up the chart with unrealistic items you'd like your youngster to complete (e.g., making all A’s on the next report card). A couple “big goals” are fine every now and then, but make sure there are some things he is already doing on a regular basis, and a couple of very easy things that will always earn some points or check marks no matter what. Add one "miscellaneous" category for rewarding random acts of good behavior.

4. Don't offer anything you can't deliver. Big trips or large toys are risky promises. Losing them will be a negative experience for your youngster if he doesn't succeed in earning enough points, and they may be hard for you to deliver reliably. If your youngster is earning an allowance, put the money aside early in the week so you'll be sure to deliver on payday.

5. Figure out a reasonable time period for your youngster to go without a reward. For a very young child, or one with severe behavior issues, it may be as little as 15 minutes. Let your youngster know that for every 15 minutes of appropriate behavior, she will get a reward (e.g., a sticker on a piece of paper, a small snack, a coin, etc.). If the behavior during any specific increment doesn't measure up, the reward is missed, but the time resets and the next increment of time is open for change.

6. If your youngster makes a partial attempt at something (e.g., doing a chore), but does not completely follow through (e.g., he made his bed, but didn’t pick up his clothes off the floor), make sure he always gets some sort of reward. The idea here is to be positive about successes. Offer a descending scale of rewards for points attained (e.g., smaller amounts of money, reduced time to play computer games, etc.). If your youngster can work with you on this, set up the rewards together and agree on them. Put the possibilities on the chart.

7. If your youngster is not always able to do the items on the chart without help, then increase the number of points available for that task, and award them according to effort (e.g., if your youngster has trouble getting dressed in the mornings, you might award 5 points if he does it himself, 3 points if you just have to help a little, and 1 point if you have to get him dressed - but he cooperates). In this way, you're able to make a positive experience out of almost any outcome.

8. If your youngster just doesn't "get" a chart with points or checkmarks, try putting happy faces or stickers on the chart for successful results – or skip the chart idea entirely and devise another method of tracking your youngster’s successful moments (e.g., put pennies in a jar, add beads to a string, add Legos to a Lego tower, add rubber bands to a rubber-band ball, etc.). Anything that involves “adding on” to something will work.

9. Make the chart all about rewarding positive behavior – not penalizing negative behavior. Make a big deal about putting points up - or checking items off. Don't apply blame for items not checked. The chart is an opportunity to get extra credit for things done right.

10. Most behavior charts are intended to improve your youngster's performance over time, or provide weekly motivators for meeting your expectations. Sometimes, though, you need to reward behavior in the short-term (e.g., making it through a church service, surviving a mall trip, etc.). Using a chart to break down the activity into small reward-able units of time can make it easier for your youngster to get it done.

11. Reviewing the chart every night gives you an opportunity to provide positive feedback for jobs well done. If your youngster responds best to short-term rewards, you might give something like a sticker for a minimum of points earned. At the end of the week, the stickers can be "cashed-in" for bigger rewards.

12. Some Aspergers and HFA children are highly motivated by an allowance. For them, the pay-off at the end of the week should be in cash. Establish the amount in advance and put it on the chart. If money isn't motivating, find something that is (e.g., small toy, fast-food lunch, computer game time, a "get out of time-out free" card, etc.). Be creative and find the things your youngster really craves, not the things that would make sense to you.

13. Your youngster's abilities and your family's needs change, thus the chart should change too. Do this in collaboration with your son or daughter when possible. Add new chores as your youngster's abilities increase, and eliminate things he is rarely successful at. Keep brainstorming new rewards and new methods of earning them. The secret to a good behavior chart is making sure your youngster is always able to earn points – and excited about doing so.

14. Decide on a couple things you would most like done "better" by your youngster (e.g., putting shoes away, sharing toys with siblings, helping with chores when asked, good routine when getting ready for bed, etc.). With a permanent marker, write or draw these points on the side of the chart. Then write or draw the acceptable reward you are happy to offer for compliance.

15. Don’t forget about behavior at school. Ask your youngster's teacher to send home a behavior report every day. If necessary, send in a simple form that can be checked off quickly. Award points based on performance. Make a big deal of putting these points on the chart, but if your youngster has a bad day, don't make a big deal of not adding them. Simply wish him better luck tomorrow.

Making a Behavior Chart from Scratch—

1. Write out a list of goals you would like to place on the behavior chart. These might be chores, behavior modifications, or every day habits. Whatever you decide, make a “top five list” of priorities to place on the chart.

2. Open up a word-processing program (e.g., Microsoft Word) or calculation software (e.g., Microsoft Excel). Use a simple chart or graph template of your choosing to make your behavior chart. If you do not find one, you can simply draw one in Word or freehand with a marker.

3. At the side of the chart, make five sections and label each section with one of your goals. For example, "Clean Room" can be section one, "Courteous to Siblings" can be section two, "Sharing Toys" can be section three, etc. On the top of the chart list the date of the month, or just leave it blank. Make rows of squares next to each section so columns are formed with approximately 10-30 squares in each row.

4. Shop with your youngster to pick out stickers to be used as a reward. Getting him/her involved with the creation of the chart – as well as the goal reaching – can really make a strong and positive impact. Choose stickers that are brightly colored or feature your youngster's favorite characters. Place a sticker on the chart every time a good behavior is completed.

5. Decide what the reward will be once a row on the good behavior chart is filled. Note these rewards somewhere on the chart, ideally along the bottom or below the graph. Make your reward intentions clear from the start, so a youngster will not expect too much or think too little of the behavior chart. Brainstorm with your youngster to come up with goal deadlines and rewards.

6. Tack or tape the good behavior chart in a visible, common area of the home. This may be the kitchen, living room or hallway. Encourage other family members to verbally praise the youngster when a sticker is earned, or a goal is near completion. Create a new good behavior chart with fresh goals once the current ones are achieved.

Highly Acclaimed Parenting Programs Offered by Online Parent Support, LLC:

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook

==> Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Audio Book

==> Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism


Do you need the advice of a professional who specializes in parenting children and teens with Autism Spectrum Disorders?  Sign-up for Online Parent Coaching today.


Motives Behind ASD Behavior: Parents’ Analytical Approach

"How can we as parents possibly know the difference between unwanted behavior as a result of the traits of the disorder versus behavior that is simply a form of tantrumming?"

When your child with ASD level 1, or High Functioning Autism (HFA), begins to act out, it often looks like misbehavior, sounds like misbehavior, and certainly feels like misbehavior. But for many kids on the autism spectrum, “misbehavior” (e.g., lying, acting-out, tantrums, disrespect, and other signs of apparent disobedience) may have more to do with typical autism-related traits (e.g., lack of communication skills, motor clumsiness, sensory sensitivities, cause-and-effect thinking, etc.) than with deliberate malicious intent.

This DOES NOT mean you have to allow “out-of-control behavior” as just another fact of your parenting an HFA child. Your youngster still needs to learn acceptable behavior to be safe and successful. It DOES mean, though, that you're going to have to look at things from a different angle.

In order to (a) differentiate between “misbehavior and “autism-related behavior” and (b) successfully address both, consider the following suggestions:

1. To start with, you'll want to narrow your focus to one particular behavior to analyze and change. Although it's tempting, don't just choose the thing that most annoys you. A better choice will be something that particularly puzzles you. For example:
  • Why can your youngster do math just fine some days, and balks on other days?
  • Why does he insist on punishment even when it upsets him?
  • Why does he get so wound up and wild?
  • Why is your youngster sweet and compliant sometimes, then resists to the point of tantrum over something inconsequential?

As long as you're going to be a detective, you might as well give yourself a good mystery. While you're stalking one behavior, you may need to let others slide, unless it's a matter of safety. Don't try to change everything all at once.

2. Next, keep a journal (or if it is a frequently occurring behavior, keep a chart) for noting every incidence of the targeted behavior. Include the time of day the behavior occurred, and what happened before, during, and after. Think of what might have happened directly before the behavior, and also earlier in the day. Think, too, of what happened directly after the behavior, and whether it offered the youngster any reward (even negative attention can be rewarding if the alternative is no attention at all). Ask yourself the following questions. Does the behavior tend to:
  • be more frequent during a certain time of day?
  • occur after a certain event?
  • occur during transitions?
  • occur in anticipation of something happening?
  • occur when routine is disrupted?
  • occur when something happens - or doesn't happen?
  • occur when things are very noisy or very busy?

Keep track over the course of a few weeks and look for patterns.

3. It may seem as though your youngster saves his worst behavior for public places, where it causes you the most embarrassment. But there may be a reason for that. Ask yourself the following question:
  • Does he have a hard time resisting touching and banging things like buttons or doors?
  • Does he have trouble in places where he needs to stay still and quiet (e.g., church)?
  • Does he resist places where children may be cruel (e.g., the bus, playground)?
  • Does he panic in places that are busy and noisy (e.g., the mall)?
  • Does he shy away from places with strong smells or bright lights?
  • Is there something about any particular place that might be distressing?

Notice reactions to different environments and add these insights to your journal or chart.

4. You can stubbornly insist that your youngster is responsible for his own behavior, but you're liable to be waiting a long time for the behavior changes you want to see. While you may find some behaviors annoying, disruptive, or inappropriate, it may be filling a need for your youngster. And even if your youngster is genuinely unhappy about the negative consequences of his behavior, he may not understand it enough to control it.
==> How to Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

In the end, it is far easier for YOU to change (e.g., your expectations, actions, reactions, responses, etc.) than for your youngster to change. You will need to do some detective work to determine the support your youngster needs to improve his behavior, and provide it. Ultimately, you can teach your youngster to do this for himself. But you have to lead the way.

5. Take the data from your journal or chart (e.g., patterns you've discovered, observations on environments, etc.) and see if you can figure out what's behind the behavior. For example:
  • Maybe he balks at math when he sees too many problems on the page.
  • Maybe he begs for punishment because going to his room feels safer than dealing with a challenging situation.
  • Maybe he explodes over something inconsequential because he's used up all his patience weathering frustrations earlier in the day.
  • Maybe he gets wound up because “being good” gets him no attention.

Once you have a working theory, make some changes in your youngster's environment to make it easier for him to behave. For example:
  • Give your youngster lots of attention when he's being good - and none at all for bad behavior (other than just a quick and emotionless timeout).
  • If your child’s worksheet has too many problems, fold it to expose only a row at a time, or cut a hole in a piece of paper and use it as a window to show only one or two problems at once.
  • Instead of being happy that your youngster seems to be handling frustrating situations, provide support earlier in the day so that his patience will hold out longer.
  • Recognize situations your child feels challenged by - and offer an alternative between compliance and disobedience.

You may not always guess right the first time, and not every change you try will work. Effective moms and dads will have a big bag of tricks they can keep digging into until they find the one that works that day, that hour, that minute. But analyzing behavior and strategizing solutions will help you feel more in control of your family, and your youngster will feel safer and more secure. This alone often cuts down on a lot of “misbehavior.”

Resources for parents of children and teens on the autism spectrum:

==> Videos for Parents of Children and Teens with ASD


•    Anonymous said… I feel this article was posted just for me....my 6yr olds behaviour baffles me to no end and need advice
•    Anonymous said… I get so many comments of "you don't discipline your child!" People just don't understand.
•    Anonymous said… I get that from family a lot. I understand my son and use these moments to teach rather than control. It's quite frustrating, but my son is worth more than the peanut gallery and their opinions.!
•    Anonymous said… If anyone isn't happy with the way I handle my child they are welcome to take over the job. Except he's gone now, he's an adult, and he takes care of himself very well.
•    Anonymous said… My family don't understand me (NT) and hubby and daughter (ADHD/AS) for the way they do. "You got problems" as they quoted. Sure we have problems but we get counseling to HELP us move forward, understanding AS. If I didn't understand AS, I would have divorced hubby!
•    Anonymous said… Thank you for sharing this article. Wonderful advice.
•    Anonymous said… This is so true…and the peanut gallery can be overwhelming at times! Pick your battles. Nobody will fully understand unless you live it.
•    Db2TN said... This is a really helpful reminder to stop and evaluate what might be causing a "bad mood". I know most of my son's triggers, but when I am tired or distracted, can forget to do a quick internal check before reacting or trying to help him. There are times, though, when a spell of negativity or irritation can be baffling - just before Christmas break started, he was in that place. I wondered if just the anticipation of Christmas, as well as the upcoming lack of our usual routine was looming large. Turns out he was very nervous about a Dr's appointment which wound up going much better than he expected, and he was just fine after that. So now I need to add that potential to my mental checklist. But thanks for this article, it's such a help to receive new ideas and reminders of things I already know!  Thanks for this reminder to do a mental checklist before responding - or reacting - to a "bad mood". I'm familiar with most of my son's triggers, but a new one popped up recently, and it took getting through the event he was dreading before I realized that's what was causing the issue. New one to add to the list! I appreciate your articles so much - very helpful to get new ideas or be reminded of things already known or experienced!
•    Jacqui said... My three year old hasn't been officially diagnosed as of yet. We are in the loop to get tested. She has seen a couple people so far, and they are both on the fence with her. She may or may not have Asperger's.This is an awesome post. I am still learning her triggers to behavior. Christmas was a huge issue for us. And I had to find ways to tone it down. Slowly I am learning triggers. But it sounds like a life long process.

Please post your comment below…


You've Just Discovered Your Child has an Autism Spectrum Disorder – Now What?!

There is really no other way to begin this journey other than immersing yourself in your youngster's treatment. While it may be painful to say goodbye to the youngster you thought you had (i.e., a “typical” child with “quirks” rather than some “disorder”), you can say hello now to the youngster who needs you just as much - if not more - as you get to know his unique personality and development, and you can fall in love with your newly-diagnosed youngster with high-functioning autism (HFA) or Asperger's (AS) all over again in ways you could have never imagined.

In the beginning, be sure to look at your grief. It doesn't help to pretend to be positive when underneath you may be lonely, afraid or sad. The longing for the typical youngster or a typical existence may endure. You have to learn to live with that yearning.

Take some breaks for yourself. Your child’s treatment is important – but it isn't everything! As you get involved in the autism community, your isolation will lessen. Granted, it is not what you were expecting, but just like your youngster, it can be very rewarding and meaningful.

The initial period of learning about the disorder and all of the necessary therapies and treatments can be isolating. We, as parents, are also often sad at first, or angry that our life with a youngster who has an autism spectrum disorder is different than the one we dreamed of and different than the lives of most of those we see around us. Our ideal world is often very different from the world we actually live in. Still, there are many ways to work towards making your life more of how you want it to be.

Depending upon the functioning level of your youngster, there are many parent groups to join, special sports teams to coach, and class activities that you can be a part of. Sometime the issue reflects difficulty in accepting who your youngster is with his specific challenges and abilities. It may not feel normal or coincide with the dream you had for how your life would turn out.

As you begin to get more involved in the autism community, there will be more activity and company of others. This involvement often helps to make moms and dads feel more normal as it ironically provides more chances for typical activity and interaction with others. Over time, life and ideals change, and you will begin to dream new dreams for your real world.

It seems we always want the ones we love the most to understand us …our feelings, our life choices, our kids. Sometimes this is way more difficult than we would wish. Keep in mind that you are the expert on your youngster, and you know the best ways to deal with him. The truth is, if you are doing the best you can, you really don't have to prove anything to other family members or to anybody else.

In time, other family members will develop their own relationship with your "special needs" child and will hopefully follow your lead on some of the important learning and relationship issues. If you find that other family members and friends are negative around your child, or act in ways that negate his growth or self-esteem, then you may want to limit their interaction while you gently model more helpful ways to deal with your child and continue to share new or interesting articles/information on HFA or AS. This heartfelt process often takes longer than we think it should – steady persistence is paramount.

Note: Acceptance-levels vary among parents. When their child is recently diagnosed, some parents come to acceptance almost immediately -- and even feel a sense of relief that there is a name for what has been going on. Other parents need more time to arrive at acceptance, and that's O.K. Then there are a few parents who seem to never accept the fact that their child has special needs and struggle with the diagnosis for a life-time.

More resources for parents of children and teens with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's:

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook

==> Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Audio Book

==> Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism


•    Anonymous said... Well said. We were in the first group. Our first son is "neurotypical" and second has Asperger's. It's been a challenge @ times, but often times, they bring out the best in all of us. I wouldn't change it for the world!
•    Anonymous said... my son is 6yr and he has aspergers and adhd. his two brother (one older and one younger) dont understand really. but its fine. i wouldnt want it any other way. seeing what he has been thru gives me strength for my goals to go back to school.
•    Anonymous said... I actually felt relief when I recently got my 14 yr old daughters diagnosis .... It was my moment of of saying I was right all along
•    Anonymous said...I also had a "whew!" moment because I was convinced her issues stemmed from lack of parenting ability. I tried so many different things and she just didn't respond normally at all. when we got the diagnosis it all made sense, even if it didn't change her behavior, it changed the way we interpreted it and that has made so much difference.
•    Anonymous said... No grief here,well,not much that is.Always knew she was very special even before birth.It is however a very big job.Holidays are not much fun as she is very anxious.
•    Anonymous said... It has been just over a year since diagnosis. It took awhile to accept and I am not sure that I have truly accepted it. There are days that are difficult but there are also days where I things run smoothly. D is such an amazing boy with talents and skills that mesmerize me all the time. He sees things differently and he challenges me all the time. But , he is a gift my gift
•    Anonymous said... My 19 year old daughter went undiagnosed her whole life, until a doctor mentioned that there was a high possibility that she had Asperger's. I was really confused and denied that she was handicapped. But surprisingly, my daughter went and researched everything about the disorder, and she seemed to finally be at peace with her past troubles and trauma in public school (she was bullied). She found some clarity as to why she was so different back then and now. So if she accepts it, I'm learning to accept it too. I love my children no matter what happens and will always support them 100%, even if one of them needs a little more assistance in life.
•    Anonymous said... I have just had the diagnosis this week so a bit unsure what happens now. Would appreciate any guidance and also my child is 7 do things get more challenging or stay the same.
•    Karla Velazquez said... I have half a year with the knowledge that the school psephologist diagnosed my son with the aspergers syndrome, but now what he is in special needs class but that does not really help at home I dont know how to work with him properly and I am dont have any resources here. What do I do next to get help? I have 6 months now with the diagnoses that my 6 year old has aspergers according to the school physiologist but I dont know what the next step is. He is in a special needs class but that does not change the behavior at home I dont know what the next step is if any one can help

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The Functional Analytic Approach to Behavior Modification for Kids on the Autism Spectrum

A “functional analytic approach” to developing effective behavioral modification in children and teens with ASD utilizes a process known as “functional behavioral assessment.” 
Functional behavioral assessment involves employing a variety of strategies (e.g., child-centered planning, treatment team meetings, systematic interviews, direct observations, etc.) to formulate hypotheses about why a child behaves the way she does.

In order to accomplish a functional behavioral assessment, several assumptions about behavior must be regarded as valid:

• Behavior has communicative value. Though it is generally accepted that all behavior has communicative value, it is important to remember that children with ASD generally do not have a behavioral intent to disrupt classroom settings, but instead problematic behaviors may arise from other needs (e.g., self-protection in stressful situations). Although children with the disorder typically have excellent language skills, their ability to use communication effectively in a social context may be limited. Inappropriate behavior may be the only available communicative response to difficult situations until other options are learned.

• Behavior is context related. All children demonstrate some level of variability in behavior across different settings. This is just as true for children on the autism spectrum. In fact, understanding how the environment impacts a child is one of the chief outcomes of a functional behavioral assessment. This information has particular value for preventive methods or to set the stage for teaching alternative skills. Effective behavioral support is contingent on understanding the child, the context in which he operates, and the reason(s) for behavior.

• Behavior is functional. Behavior serves a specific purpose(s). For children with the disorder, these functions may be expressed in highly idiosyncratic and often complex verbal ways.

Though there is some disagreement about the best way to conduct a comprehensive functional behavioral assessment, most clinicians are in agreement about the key outcomes of such an assessment. They are:
  • identification of the consequences that maintain behavior (i.e., once a behavior starts, what keeps it going over time?)
  • description of situations most commonly associated with the occurrence of problematic behavior
  • clear and unambiguous description of the problematic behavior(s)

A functional behavioral assessment should provide information that:
  • guides the development of supports that are logically connected
  • increases understanding of the child
  • describes the physical and social setting(s) in which the behavior occurs
  • describes the problem behavior itself

Once an understanding of problem behaviors is achieved, it is helpful to come up with a behavioral modification plan. A good behavioral modification plan includes focus on:
  • expanding beyond consequence strategies (e.g., time outs)
  • preventing the occurrence of problem behavior
  • teaching socially acceptable alternatives to problem behavior (especially alternatives that serve the same purpose as the problem behavior and therefore are more likely to be adopted by the child)

Next, the clinician should use a comprehensive format for outlining multi-component supports that addresses the following:
  1. Antecedent/setting event strategies
  2. Alternative skills training
  3. Consequence strategies
  4. Long-term prevention

Let’s look at each of these areas:

1. Antecedent/setting event strategy: The primary goals of this strategy are to prevent or reduce the likelihood of problem behavior and to set the stage for learning more adaptive skills over time. For example, many children on the spectrum have difficulty with noisy, crowded environments. Therefore, the newly arrived middle school student who becomes physically aggressive in the hallway during passing periods may need an accommodation of leaving class a minute or two early to avoid the congestion which provokes this behavior. Over time, the student may learn to negotiate the hallways simply by being more accustomed to the situation, or by being given specific instruction or support.

Key issues to address when discussing this strategy are:
  • What can be done to eliminate the problem (i.e., the antecedent condition)?
  • What can be done to modify the situation if it can’t be eliminated entirely?
  • Will the antecedent strategy need to be permanent, or is it a temporary "fix" which allows the student to increase skills needed to manage the situation in the future?

The importance of using antecedent strategies should not be underestimated. Kids on the spectrum often have to manage a great amount of personal stress. Striking a balance of short and long term accommodations through manipulating antecedents to problem behavior is often critical in setting the stage for later skill development.

2. Alternative Skills Training: The primary purpose of this strategy is to teach skills that replace problem behavior by serving the same purpose as the challenging behavior. For example, a student with the disorder may have trouble "entering" into a kickball game by asking to play and instead simply inserts himself into the game, thereby offending the other players and risking exclusion. Instead, the youngster can be coached on how and when to ask to enter into the game.

Here is a particularly useful framework for guiding efforts towards teaching alternative skills by examining the following three categories:

A. Equivalence training
B. General skills training
C. Self-regulation training

A. Equivalence training requires support persons to ask the following sequential questions:
  • How will alternative skills be taught?
  • What alternative skill(s) will be taught which serves the same function as the problem behavior?
  • What is the function of the problem behavior?

B. General “skills training” requires asking the following sequential questions:
  • How will alternative skills be taught?
  • What other academic, social, or communication skills will be taught that will prevent the problem behavior from occurring?
  • What skill deficits are contributing to the problem behavior?

C. Self-regulation training requires asking the following sequential questions:
  • How will skills be taught?
  • What events appear to be contributing to the child's anger or frustration in reference to the problem behavior?
  • What self-control skills will be taught to help the child deal with difficult/frustrating situations?

One particularly relevant means to teach alternative skills is through the use of self-management strategies. Self-management is a procedure in which autistic children are taught to discriminate their own target behavior and record the occurrence or absence of that target behavior. Self-management is a particularly useful technique to assist children to achieve greater levels of independent or even inter-dependent functioning across many settings and situations.

By learning self-management techniques, children can become more self-directed and less dependent on continuous supervision and control. Instead of teaching situation specific behaviors, self-management teaches a more general skill that can be applied in an unlimited number of settings.

Self-management strategies have particular relevance and immediate utility for children on the autism spectrum. The basic steps for teaching self-management are:
  • clearly define the target behavior
  • identify child reinforcers
  • design or choose a self-management method or recording device
  • teach the child to use the self-management device
  • teach self-management independence

It is also important for teachers to monitor their own behavior when working with "special needs" students. Each time a teacher reprimands a child for misbehavior, an opportunity to reframe the moment in terms of the child's need to develop alternative skills through a means such as self-management training may be lost.

3. Consequence strategies: Though consequences have traditionally been framed in terms of how they reduce problem behavior as a form of discipline, reframing consequences in terms of “reinforcement for achieving alternative behaviors” should be the focus for ASD kids. One way to reframe the use of consequences is to develop them as “planned responses to instructional situations.” This shifting of the use of consequences does not mean that negative consequences should be eliminated (especially in moments of crisis), but that multiple negative consequences are likely to heighten anxiety levels for the child and compete with teaching alternative skills.

4. Long-term prevention: In the presence of immediate behavioral concerns, it may be difficult to come up with a long-term approach to a child's educational program. However, it is critical that plans for supporting a child over the long-term be outlined from the beginning. Many supports with the most relevance for kids on the spectrum (e.g., specific accommodations, peer supports, social skills, self-management strategies, etc.) must be viewed as procedures that are developed progressively as the youngster moves through school. These are not “crisis management” techniques, but the very strategies that can decrease crisis situations from developing.

Those involved with the child will need to collaborate on a behavioral modification plan that is clear and easily implemented. Once developed, the plan will need to be monitored across settings. Inconsistencies in expectations and behaviors will only serve to heighten the challenges demonstrated by the child.

Resources for parents of children and teens on the autism spectrum:

==> Videos for Parents of Children and Teens with ASD


Understanding Anger and Depression: 2-Minute Tip

Reasons behind anger and depression in Aspergers children and teens:

Resources for Parents:

Tailored Disciplinary Techniques for Kids on the Spectrum: Special Considerations

Disciplining High-Functioning Autistic (HFA) kids and teens can present some unique challenges unfamiliar to moms and dads of neurotypical kids. “Misbehavior” is often not misbehavior at all – rather it is a symptom of the youngster’s diagnosis.

So how does a parent know when - and how - to discipline the child with special needs? Here are some tips to help:

1. Employ “attachment parenting” skills. An HFA youngster can bring out the best and the worst in a family. By practicing attachment parenting and getting connected, the whole family can develop a “sixth sense” about the child, a quality of caring that no book or counselor will be able to give you. With all children, attachment parenting is highly desirable, but with an youngster on the autism spectrum, it's necessary and a matter of survival.

2. Avoid the use of negative labels, medical terms, or psychological jargon when talking to your youngster about his behavior. Target the behavior – not the youngster.

3. Be consistent. If you threaten without following through, your child will learn to disrespect and ignore you. You must follow through with consequences swiftly, and EVERY TIME the rule is broken. This way, your youngster can predict his consequences and make better behavior choices. When the consequences are inconsistent, changing, and infrequent, chaos will rule!

4. Beware of “over-attachment syndrome.” It is very easy for your whole life to revolve around your special style of parenting, to the extent that it becomes an end in itself. This is a “lose-lose” situation. You lose the joy of parenting, and you lose your ability to be flexible. Eventually, you will either burn out – or you will break.

5. Change your standards. Before a child is even born, moms and dads imagine what the youngster's life will be like (e.g., piano lessons, baseball stardom, graduating from college, etc.). Even with a typical youngster, you have to reconcile these dreams with reality as your youngster grows up. With an HFA youngster, this is a bigger task. You learn to live in the present. The milestones of the youngster's life are less defined and the future less predictable—though your youngster may surprise you! In the meantime, set your standards for your child at an appropriate level.

6. Create simple house rules and discuss them together. Have a family meeting where "family rules" are created. Simplify them according to the cognitive ability of your child (e.g., a rule like "no yelling or screaming when you're inside the house" could be simplified to "indoor voice"). Don't overwhelm your youngster with too many rules at first. Find ten that would cover the most problem behaviors. Later you can build from there.

7. Different doesn't mean fragile. While it is true you have to change your expectations of an HFA youngster, you don't have to lower your standards of discipline! It's tempting to get lax and let "special needs" kids get by with behaviors you wouldn't tolerate in other kids. He needs to know, early on, what behavior you expect. Many moms and dads wait too long to start behavior training. It's much harder to redirect an eighty pound youngster than a thirty pounder. Like all kids, this youngster must be taught to adjust to family routines, to obey, and to manage himself.

8. Different doesn't mean inferior. In a kid's logic, being different equates with being inferior. This feeling may be more of a problem for siblings and other children than for the developmentally-delayed youngster, at least in the early years. Most kids measure their self-worth by how they believe others perceive them. Be sure the youngster's siblings don't fall into this "different equals less" trap. This is why the term "special needs" is not only socially correct, but it's a positive term, not a value judgment. In reality, all kids could wear this label.

9. Don't compare. Your youngster is special. Comparing your youngster to others of the same age is not fair. Quit focusing on what your child is missing, and instead, started enjoying him for himself. Get rid of your tendency to focus on his “problem” – he is not a project, rather he is a person.

10. Give negative reinforcement for bad behaviors. Some say it's outdated, but the good old "timeout" works wonders for younger kids. Designate a chair or place in your house where the youngster must sit and think about his behavior. He should not have access to toys or television. Keep him isolated and apart from the action of the house, but close enough for you to observe him. Don’t talk to him except to say he must sit in “think time” for 5 minutes (or longer for older kids). If he leaves the seat, put him back and increase his time. "Now it's ten minutes." Use a timer that shows minutes counting down as he sits in the chair. If he yells or misbehaves in time out, start the timer over again. He must sit quietly in the chair for the allotted time. Be firm.

11. Give positive reinforcement for good behaviors. This is a step in discipline that is often overlooked, and yet can be the most effective. When your youngster hangs up his coat instead of throwing it on the floor, he should be praised. "That makes me happy when you hang up your coat! Good Job!" Special-needs kids often do well with charts, so consider giving a star when your youngster behaves well. Five stars could earn extra time playing his favorite video game.

12. Give your youngster choices. Initially, you may have to guide him into making a choice, but just the ability to make a choice helps the youngster feel important. Present the choices in your youngster's language, which may mean using pictures, pointing, and reinforcing your verbal instructions (which may not be fully understood) with visual ones. The more you use this exercise, the more you will learn about your youngster's abilities, preferences, and receptive language skills at each stage of development.

13. Reset your anger buttons. Your youngster will frequently do some things that exasperate you. If you get angry each time there is a “challenge,” you may find yourself in a perpetual state of madness.

14. Help your youngster build a sense of responsibility. There is a natural tendency to want to rush in and do things for a developmentally-delayed youngster. For these kids, the principle of "teach them how to fish rather than give them a fish" applies doubly. The sense of accomplishment that accompanies being given responsibility gives the youngster a sense of value and raises his self-worth.

15. Know your youngster's motivators. What does he love most? Candy? Favorite books? Video games? Movies? What are his interests? These are the privileges your youngster will earn with appropriate behaviors, and will lose with inappropriate behaviors.

16. Provide structure. Kids on the spectrum need developmentally- appropriate structure, but it requires sensitivity on your part to figure out what is needed when. Watch your child, not the calendar. Try to get inside his head.

17. Teach “frustration tolerance.” Help your youngster be frustrated and find ways to deal with it. You’re not going to be able to create a world in which your child is never angry, disappointed or frustrated. View these uncomfortable emotions as muscles, and if your child doesn't learn to flex them in socially appropriate ways, they don't develop. Children and teens on the spectrum really do need to learn how to be angry effectively - and how to be frustrated or disappointed effectively.

18. View behaviors as “signals of needs.” Everything kids do tells you something about what they need. This principle is particularly true with autistic kids.

19. Watch out for parental guilt. Moms and dads with autistic children often feel guilty. Many feel their youngster is getting a raw deal in the world, and they want to make it better. That's a very universal impulse.

20. Understand the difference between “accommodations” and “allowances.” Accommodations are things we do to help kids be capable …things we can put in place so that the playing field for the youngster is roughly equivalent to the playing field for a youngster without special needs. Allowances, on the other hand, are things like, "We need to let him take toys because he doesn't know how to ask for a turn yet." Allowances aren't helpful. Children with special needs have a right to struggle. That can be counter-intuitive since they're already struggling, but when we make things too easy for them, we are not helping them develop the belief about themselves that they are capable and they can learn to solve problems.

Disciplining a youngster who is "differently-abled" is likely to bring out the best and the worst in a mother or father. Caring grown-ups try to help a youngster make up for what's missing by increasing their love and attention, yet kids on the spectrum trigger special frustrations in us. Be prepared to run out of patience.

Most kids go through predictable stages of development. You know about when to expect what behavior and how long it will last. You know that two-year-old temper tantrums will diminish once the youngster learns to speak. Knowing you don't have to weather this undesirable behavior indefinitely helps you cope. With the developmentally-disabled youngster, stages seem to go on forever, as do the frustrations in both parent and child.

Parenting an autistic  youngster is a tough job. The ups and downs and joys and sorrows are magnified. You rejoice at each accomplishment, you worry about each new challenge. Welcome to the world of autism spectrum disorders :)

Resources for parents of children and teens on the autism spectrum:

==> Videos for Parents of Children and Teens with ASD

Resources for Neurodiverse Couples:

==> Online Group Therapy for Men with ASD

==> Online Group Therapy for NT Wives

==> Living with ASD: eBook and Audio Instruction for Neurodiverse Couples 

==> One-on-One Counseling for Struggling Individuals & Couples Affected by ASD

==> Online Group Therapy for Couples Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder

 ==> Cassandra Syndrome Recovery for NT Wives

==> ASD Men's MasterClass: Social-Skills Training and Emotional-Literacy Development

==> Pressed for time? Watch these "less-than-one-minute" videos for on the go.



Anonymous said...This is a tough one!! Usually, I just sit my teen daughter down and ask why she did those things and then go on to explain why those weren't the right things to do. I find this helps vs jumping on her about being "wrong".

Anonymous said...My 13 yr old is so verbally abusive to us all, i would say bullying to his younger siblings. He has no control over his anger and then refuses to follow the instructions to go to his room for his chill out time he follows is around the house taunting and shouting, slamming doors and kicking walls.

Anonymous said...My son is 4; we've tried Magic 1, 2, 3, pared down versions of a token economy...but discipline is hard no matter what. Right now, I'm trying to focus on teaching him to "Wait, watch, and listen" before reacting. I think what I see is a need for him to build skills -- like that suggestion about tolerating frustration. I see it as more than that though -- from small skills like teaching him to take a breath when he gets frustrated to larger ones...

Anonymous said...This hit the nail on the head for us today. Thanks for posting :0)

Anonymous said...yes this definnitly applies to us. when my son acts out other people just don't get it, that its harder to disapline a child with aspergers.


Marital Stress and Parenting Kids on the Autism Spectrum: 20 Tips for Spouses

Becoming a parent of an Aspergers or high functioning autistic (HFA) youngster changes your identity forever. There is a balancing act between (a) caring for the needs of your “special needs” youngster and (b) putting time and effort into the maintenance and growth of yourself and your marriage.

The kind of stress that raising a "special needs" youngster often entails can affect relationships at their weakest points. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 47% of first marriages fail and 57% of all marriages end in divorce. Although the findings are inconsistent, there is general consensus among professionals that, while the divorce rates are comparable, there appears to be more reported marital distress among families of kids with special needs.

Some areas that will be impacted in your marriage are:
  • Finances
  • Future planning
  • Parenting style
  • Recreation
  • Self-esteem
  • Sexuality
  • Social life
  • Spirituality

Moms and dads of kids on the autism spectrum often face a life very different from what they had originally imagined. The needs of these young people are often complex and illusive. Searching to find the cause of the youngster’s developmental problems - and the best treatment for it - can be a long hard journey. When the diagnosis is made, powerful emotions may surface - and may put the marriage on trial.

How can couples understand each other in the wake of such a challenge?

Challenging life events can serve as catalysts for change. Some families disintegrate while others thrive despite their hardships. Parents can emerge from crisis revitalized and enriched. Hope for relationships really can spring from the crises parents experience when their youngster has an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

If you and your spouse are parenting an Aspergers or HFA youngster, here are some suggestions to help your relationship:

1. A major key to coping with stress and change is to try to accept it and to regularly express your feelings and thoughts to one another. Of course a diagnosis does not destroy your marriage – but it will shift the balance in your marital relationship. You and your partner will be adjusting in different ways, and often at a difference pace. Sometimes your partner will want to talk about the situation, and then other times may need time alone.

2. Allow friends and family to provide extra support, or seek professional help if your marriage is in jeopardy.

3. Although your marriage is forever changed, the change doesn't have to be negative. Many partners share their sense of joy, awe and thankfulness as they speak about their special youngster. Because they were able to communicate and openly share with one another, their marriage is also enriched.

4. Be patient with one another.

5. Celebrate each milestone.

6. When an individual is in pain, he/she may withdraw or become frustrated and angry. It’s hard to talk about something we have no power to change or fix. At times the reactions of partners can become polarized or opposite (e.g., one partner may notice problems in the Aspergers or HFA youngster and tend to worry and feel negative, while the other partner holds hope and optimism that - in time - everything will be fine). Try to consider all of your feelings toward your youngster - both positive and negative - and discuss issues in ways that will help both of you feel understood and find solutions to problems.

7. Develop a strong family support network.

8. Look at what professionals believe make a strong family. The list includes communication, listening, affirming, respecting, trusting, having fun and a sense of humor, and knowing when to seek help. These strengths need to be worked on in a couple's marriage relationship, too.

9. When possible share the responsibilities at home by working together on chores, childcare, and education. It is helpful when partners both work to learn about their youngster’s disorder, prepare for and attend IEP meetings, etc. Get involved in the special needs community if you can. There’s so much to manage everyday that reaching out to your spouse, relatives or friends can help lessen the burden.

10. Reaffirm your marriage commitment to one another.

11. Realize that children on the spectrum will disrupt the course of your marriage now and then. It simply comes with the territory, but can be easily worked out.

12. Remember to take care of your relationship. Make time for the two of you to be alone every day – even if it is a walk around the block. Some time away together is important also.

13. Sometimes a mental health professional can be helpful to you in understanding the needs of Aspergers and HFA kids, yourself, and your marriage. Some parents are reluctant to take this step, but if it becomes hard to function from day to day, this kind of help may be in order. Just as you would consult more than one specialist for your youngster if necessary, do likewise for yourself. If your spouse is too discouraged, then start by yourself. Sometimes a change in one spouse changes the chemistry of the situation for the better.

14. Sort out what is important and what isn't important to the two of you. Really look at your values and your hopes and dreams for your life together. Discuss what you can – and cannot - accomplish.

15. Your youngster has a condition that may require lots of care and supervision in the early years. In the struggle to advocate for your kid’s needs, your own needs as a parent and as spouse may get lost. Many spouses stop focusing on their marriage, but this never helps. As hard as it may sound at first, start to think about taking care of yourself and adding some fun and enjoyment into your life, even though it can take a long time for this to feel okay.

16. Take time to pursue the things that renew you as individuals.

17. Talk openly about problems and issues when they occur.

18. Together, learn all you can about your youngster's disorder.

19. Family life can be a test of love and resilience, so taking good notes and working to understand each other's wants and needs are vital to the success and survival of an intimate relationship. Life has veered-off a bit from what you had expected it to be. Try not to blame each other for the situation. It takes time to sort this stuff out. Be kind to yourself and each other when the going gets rough.

20. Prayer and meditation are useful tools for many parents of special needs children.

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==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook

==> Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Audio Book

==> Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism


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How can I get my spouse more involved with our autistic daughter?


How can I get my spouse more involved with our daughter (high functioning)? He is generally supportive, but doesn’t seem willing to learn anything about autism or get involved with our daughter’s treatment. I’m starting to wonder whether he’s ever going to get to know our daughter at all!


Unfortunately, you speak for many mothers in your situation. There is a sense of loneliness that many moms experience after the diagnosis. It seems to come from the general trend that males have a hard time facing things they can’t fix. They feel powerless and inept when they can’t simply work harder to fix their youngster’s “disability.” Your spouse probably feels more powerless than you do.

The dynamic of a family with a high-functioning autistic (HFA) youngster tends to follow a pattern where the dad focuses on the long-term problems (e.g., financial burdens), while the mom responds more emotionally as she faces the burdens of the daily care of the youngster. By being less involved in the daily interaction with their kids, dads tend to have a somewhat longer period of denial about the disorder and its implications. When males do express their feelings, they tend to show anger or frustration.

To make matters worse, many fathers of HFA children have undiagnosed autism themselves. And some wives report that such husbands tend to be hard driven, inexpressive, pragmatic individuals, devoid of strong emotions or the capacity to nurture, always more at home with work than with their families.

Recently, a mom of an autistic child (who I have been counseling) told her spouse that if he really loved her the way he said, then he would come to a few counseling sessions with her. She needed that from him and insisted. He came and was glad he did. He probably thought about autism as much as she did, but kept it all inside. He was very expressive about what a great job she was doing, but simultaneously very discouraged about his child’s progress.

One dad told me he never read anything about HFA or went to any appointments until his wife had to go out of town for a weekend for a funeral. Left home with their "special needs" youngster, he came to a realization of what his wife’s daily life was really like, and he began to take a different attitude. He began to learn about HFA and get involved in his child’s treatment.

Everyone deals with parenting a child with special needs differently, and this difference may be even more pronounced in a family with an HFA youngster. It is very typical for one parent to become immersed in the world of autism after the diagnosis, while the other parent takes a back seat. Your spouse’s supportiveness is a positive step, and not getting as involved at this stage does not necessarily mean an unwillingness to do so. He must come to terms with - and get to know - your daughter in his own way, and at his own pace.

Encouragement and support for your spouse to get more involved in your daughter’s life need not include any accusations at all. Keep your spouse informed about your daughter and what you learn about her and her disorder. Leave the information around for your spouse to pick up and take a look at in his own time. Continue to encourage positive family interaction as much as possible.

You may feel somewhat resentful at times that you are the one doing all of the work here. You may be more able than your spouse to deal with your daughter’s diagnosis and all of the planning and involvement that goes along with it. If your spouse has a particularly hard time accepting your daughter’s diagnosis, then some counseling may be helpful. But, first try to gently nudge him along and to talk to him about your feelings and his with regard to your daughter. Perhaps things can begin to move forward from there. You can certainly let your spouse know how his seeming lack of involvement or interest makes you feel (but no accusations).

Fathers tend to be slower in this aspect of parenting a "special needs" youngster, so don’t get discouraged. Let your spouse know that you appreciate him, and let him know what you need.

Resources for parents of children and teens on the autism spectrum:

==> Videos for Parents of Children and Teens with ASD


Anonymous said...
I don't think it's not having an interest my partner is the same I think it's more to do with them finding it hard to understand!

Anonymous said...
My husband had the same problem and I thought the same things most people do BUT after i finally got him to be totally honest he did understand but was scared that because of her Aspergers she would not reciprocate his emotions. And as you well know men don't admit their fears easily. After he started participating in her treatment they grew very close. In fact she tells him her "secrets" now lol she is 11

Anonymous said...
That's my husband he knows nothing about it and all I ever say is start reading about it and he does not understand our daughter and her issues so I deal with it all alone . His answer is always just punish her ... Like that would work ... He also says he's never had to deal with a child with "mental " issues .... I think sometimes that makes him feel like less than a man or something because our daughter is like that

Unknown said...
I read this post on a day where our differences in dealing with our son came up once again. Mostly, we don't talk about it, and I feel resentment because while I try to have positive interactions with our son way more often than negative ones, my husband seems to always be correcting or judging or wishing he was different. We interviewed a therapist today and I brought up that I would like family therapy. I keep mentioning to my husband how much it affects our relationship when he doesn't connect in positive ways with our son. It doesn't ever seem to change anything long-term. He sits at home with his computer or his papers and spends so much more time working even when he is at home than he does giving attention to our son (unless it is to scold him).

Raising Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Parents' Grief and Guilt

Some parents grieve for the loss of the youngster they   imagined  they had. Moms and dads have their own particular way of dealing with the...