Parents' "Compliance Strategies" for Uncooperative Kids on the Autism Spectrum

“Do you have any tricks for getting my very uncooperative (high functioning autistic) son to comply with requests? Even simple ones, like taking one minute to put his dirty clothes in the hamper, initiate a power struggle. This usually results in me doing the task myself just to keep things from escalating into a tantrum or meltdown. Help!”

You're in luck. There are a lot of “compliance strategies” that often work quite well with uncooperative kids on the autism spectrum. Here are just a few to get you started:

1. Keep it simple. Try asking your son to do three simple requests first. Request can be things such as asking what time it is, what day it is, to hand you an object he is sitting near, or to tell you something fun he did that day, etc.  Then make your fourth request the more complicated one you were originally hoping to get your son to do (e.g., picking up his dirty clothes). Uncooperative children are more likely to comply with a more difficult request after successfully completing three simple requests first.

2. Arrange the environment so that it is easier to comply with requests. This technique will encourage your son to do what is asked, because the “response effort” is much less than usual. For example, (a) bundling an entire outfit with underwear, socks and everything so that it is very easy for your son to go to the closet and pick out what he should wear that day, and (b) making sure your son has a trashcan and hamper in his bedroom where it can be easily used. Try using other organization products as well.

3. Break down tasks so that they are easier to understand. When working with your son, instead of just asking him to do something (e.g., clean his room), give 3-4 specific behaviors that would result in a cleaner room (e.g., putting away clothes in the hamper, making the bed, putting papers in the trash, etc.).

4. Phrase requests differently to achieve better compliance. State the request as if you are already assuming your son will complete it, and if possible, provide a choice that he can only make if he completes the request (e.g., After you take your shower, did you want to wear your black or blue pants? When you brush your teeth, did you want to use the electric tooth brush or a regular tooth brush? When you put away your clothes, did you want to hang them all up in your closet or put them in the drawers?)

5. State the obvious. Instead of asking or telling your son to do certain things, try making an obvious statement that leads to the desired behavior. For example, if you want him to pick up his clothes, say something like, “It looks like you have some dirty clothes on the floor that could go in the hamper.” If you want him to wipe his or her face at dinner, instead of telling him to use his napkin, say something like, “You have some food on your face.”

Compliance strategies are a form of social influence where a child does what parents want him to do, following their requests or suggestions. It is similar to obedience, but there is no order – only a request.



Best Comment... I have found that just the simple act of giving my child more time to process my requests have resulted in him complying with requests more often. It is well known the kids with Autism/Apsergers have a slower processing system. For example, I will say, “I want you to put your toys back in the toy box”, I will then think of a small task that I need to complete, even if I have to make one up. I will then say “I am going to go put a few dishes away, and when I come back I expect your toys to be where they belong” Me walking away gives my child time to process what I have asked him to do, and it gives him time to do it. If he chooses not to do what I have asked him to do while I do my task I will say something like “I see that you did not put your toys away like I asked, I have one more thing to do. While I go pick up a few dirty clothes, I expect you to follow directions and put your toys away like I asked you to. If you do not do this, you will lose *insert privilege here* until it IS done”. Then FOLLOW THROUGH. DO NOT GIVE IN AND DO THIS CHORE YOURSELF or it reinforces that if he refuses to do something you will come in and do it for him. This takes PRACTICE, sometimes it works, sometimes it does not, but being consistent really IS the key. Yes, sometimes you will have to let the mess be until he/she is ready to pick up the mess and get his privilege back, but the mess isn’t going anywhere, I promise you that.

•    Anonymous said...  We figured out my son had a lot of meltdown because he was hungry, if your child is having meltdowns during the same time of day check if its a time he/she is coming off their meds. We had snack time writen into his iep. Also we have our son take melatonin and eat (protein and something else) before bed. He also earns game time, an allowance or something special for doing choirs. When he was younger if he had a melt down my husband would hug him tight or I would rub his back until he calmed down. We had trouble getting him to his room so we would just do it right where he was sitting, cuts down on the time of the tantrums.
•    Anonymous said... Brilliant so simple
•    Anonymous said... Good for non-aspies as well!!
•    Anonymous said... he will only do things when he really wants something, he's 19yrs old, so i wait till he wants something then I have him do chores, and thing is he always wants something.
•    Anonymous said... I agree with Caroline. My son is now 16 and has more understanding of what basic things that need to happen every day. We turn the wifi off. He will usually ask why its off, sometimes he does his stuff, and sometimes he has a meltdown. Trying to be consistent is the hard part.
•    Anonymous said... I would argue that you do have to parent differently for a child on the spectrum. I also really struggle with the terms 'tantrum' and 'meltdown' being confused. An ASD child who has had a meltdown should not be punished.
•    Anonymous said... OMG so simple. I can't believe I never thought of putting a laundry bin in my sons room. So going to try that!
•    Anonymous said... omg story of my life!
•    Anonymous said... Reward charts
•    Anonymous said... These strategies work great for us! Listen to the program CDs, in addition to reading the books, then adapt the premise to your child and your personality.
•    Anonymous said... We put out 8 year old on 5mg respiradone. This enabled her to regulate her meltdowns and function in school like any other child, she can now self regulate in under a few minutes. The change in my daughter on this was quite amazing. She is making heaps of friends and went from 10% to 95%+ completion of class work.
•    Anonymous said... When our boys do not act like part of the team by doing the simple chores set out before them. When they ask us for something we don't comply and remind them that inaction has a consequence. You can't expect someone to help you if you are unwilling to help in return. This always brings up the conversation about mutual respect and teamwork/helping. Ok so it means that the tasks take longer to get accomplished but with repetitive prompts it sinks in.
*    I found writing a list of tasks that needed to be done daily with VERY specific detail on how to do them. Routine is important so if they have to be done on a weekly, daily basis have the list out. The list also worked since there was no "tone" of voice that could make the task seem angry or rushed. It was just expected and then the positive rewards were generated.

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