Disciplinary Techniques for Kids on the Spectrum: What Parents Have to Say

“I have an 8 year old son with high functioning autism whose behavior is getting worse and discipline is getting harder. He is refusing to do school work (he is in a special online class geared for children like him) so they send homework that results in 4 hours of work a night and many, many tantrums. Their corrective approach is to have him write 20 sentences on ‘I will not yell’ 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 after school 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 behavior is worse than ever. Any suggestions or tips would be greatly appreciated!”


•    Anonymous said…  It obviously isn't working. Maybe try positive instead of negative. Be encouraging. Meet him where he is. Use what currency he enjoys to do first/then.

•    Anonymous said… Feel your pain. My daughter acts the same way

•    Anonymous said… Flip all that negative punishment into positive reinforcements. afterschool have a snack, then some sort of big muscle activity to get grounded in his body. Set a goal of working thru one problem, of his choice, with a max time of 20 minutes, then quietly transition to a favored activity. Slowly increase the goal to one problem from each section. School needs to be on board with some positive reinforcement by 'catching him being good.' With the help of a one on one para, start with a very small goal, like no yelling in class for one minute and he gets a smiley face. At home make a big deal out of every goal met.

•    Anonymous said… From reading the initial question, I would infer the school isn't setting four hours of homework each night, rather the behavior is resulting in the small amount of homework TAKING four hours.

•    Anonymous said… get rid of the homework, let him come home and feel he has returned to his safe haven away from all the social anxiety and feeling punished and blamed all the time, that will only serve to fuel his defiance, he needs actual down time, let him do what he wants for a bit after school, warn him 15 mins 10 mins AND 5 mins before he has to switch tasks so he learns that he needs to wind down. But mostly, and please do this one whatever else, remember that is your little boy who needs love and acceptance not discipline and regimentation. Let him be who he is and learn to accept and love him for all his quirks, by taking the pressure of society off his tiny shoulders you'll find your beautiful boy is still there and he might open up and start to trust again.

•    Anonymous said… Go to the school and re-negotiate his work schedule. He cannot be asked to do 4 hours of homework any night, let alone every school night. This is a harmful practice and does not encourage learning. Ask for a review of his classroom environment with a new approach to education for him that accommodates his needs, so he is getting learning done during the day. Make sure that at home he has time for special interests and feels safe and supported. This will help to reduce his anger / stress so that you can reason with him and put him on a reward-based schedule for accomplishing things.

•    Anonymous said… Have you thought of asking for a more mainstream class for him? My son had similar issues (he is almost 8). Being in a regular class has actually been really good for him. He is trying to fit in... which means he is more motivated to do the work and act more appropriately. This is not to say he is without issues... he often refuses to do work(writing is such a challenge). But we have seen a big improvement.

•    Anonymous said… Having a one on one therapeutic support person in a regular classroom may help. They can help him stay on task during regular class time.

•    Anonymous said… He is frustrated and angry - you are right it isn't working. Keep trying to find his currency. I paid my son for every lesson $1 then he also learned about money because he would save this up for what he wanted and then HE had some control over HIS life and things got better. Never say "no" say let me show you how to do that again - I'm not a very good teacher. So they don't feel bad about themselves and you have two choices, you could go to your room OR you can do the right thing and get a good outcome. What do you choose? It takes a bit of practise but it works

•    Anonymous said… I could never get my son to do homework till I hired a high school girl. He does it n 30 minutes when we would fight for two hours for one problem.

•    Anonymous said… I was where you were...way better now! Some recommendations that worked for me but mostly for my son...First...get rid of the homework. Homework is for applying what they learned at school. If it takes too long , it means the teacher needs to do a better job teaching them or they get it and don't need to do the homework . Send it back and tell the teacher to help him understand. Teaching your son is the teacher's job. Not yours. You are only there to support him with homework. Give him his free time and his fun time. He's had a rough day - 8 hours of sensory overload, not being understood, possibly being bullied and made fun of (by students and/or teachers). The kid needs to come home and be himself and be loved and relax. Second, how is making him write 'I will not yell in class' helping him control his anger???? It just keeps him occupied for hours so the teacher can go on with his/her day. Ask why is he yelling? What is the trigger? What can they do to be preventative? For my son reward charts didn't work. A big hug (pressure) and kiss telling him how proud i am of him does wonders!!! All i know is that my son would come home beaten! So i was there to hug and kiss him. Tell him how proud i was of him for getting through another day and then we would sit and watch tv together instead of hours of fighting over homework. I also found a better school for him. The teacher in the regular class is awesome! He is in a regular class with the option to go to the community class if he's having a bad day. It worked for us. Best of luck to you and your son.

•    Anonymous said… I would advise homeschooling too. I took my children of the school after trying a lot of things and different schools and am homeschooling for years now. I have four children in the autism spectrum and school was really hard for them. The homework for sure cause the school itself already costed a lot of energy and having to deal with angry not understanding and not openminded teachers because of not doing the homework or not well enough was really too much. I think homeschool can be a great solution for both your son and you. School should be more fun, a place to feel safe and to grow and learn. To me it seems that your son is so angry at school because it is really too much for him there .. the noise, the things he has to do, the reaction of others etc.

•    Anonymous said… I would start by getting rid of the homework. Tell the school not to send it home because you aren't doing it anymore. Getting through a school day is so hard for these kids that when they get home they should just be able to be kids. If you think about how many hours they are at school everyday plus their bus ride it is just like an adult's work day and then they are expected to do more, NOPE unreasonable for these kids or really for any kd.

•    Anonymous said… I would try a different type of school. Are there any charter schools? My kid couldn't handle regular school. We found a charter school that is project-based, allows him to roam the classroom, no homework, lots of hands on work. You may need to research other educational options.

•    Anonymous said… I would've thought a special ed class would know better than to do that. Are these people properly trained? All encounters I've had with special ed departments, they are so lenient and understanding of the kids. The poor kid's just been at school for what...6 hrs? And then forced to do an additional 4 hrs...that's torture. A lot teachers don't believe in homework and if it weren't for the curriculum put in place by MOE they wouldn't give it. My boy hasn't done homework for approx 3 years now. I used to make him do it but the boy struggled and it was painful for the both of us so I stopped it. Now, after a long day at school, he's able to come home and chill out rather than be forced to do yet more school work. My suggestion is chuck the homework in and spend some fun time with him, give him nice memories to think back on.

•    Anonymous said… If he has four hours of homework he is not being accommodated thru some kind of I EP If he has one then you need to fight to get accommodations so he can even handle this and his behavior would probably change for the better Need to contact Special needs department officials f your school district

•    Anonymous said… If he's done something wrong at school then don't give further punishment at home. He's probably been disciplined at school and he'll get there eventually. Is he in mainstream with support or special education school? It seems like they don't understand his needs..

•    Anonymous said… If you are in Surrey, there is a great group of parents homeschooling their children through a range of amazing activities with very positive results. might be worth considering. 

•    Anonymous said… If you try and see it differently......Should we punish kids with Down syndrome when they refuse to write 20 sentences in class? Autism is a disability aswell.. The very last thing he needs is punishment.... He needs help. Help to stop all the ting X making him upset and frustrated before he reaches a point of yelling... You can't punish someone for their disability... We have to work at helping them ( autistic kids) ...and finding the reasons they explode with anger... Is the class to loud... Is he eating and drinking enough... Does he understand the work and is able to get help from a teacher.. Could be so many reasons.... The class should be adjusted to his needs and turned into a place he likes to go to.

•    Anonymous said… Ignorant approach on their part! Many ASD kids do not learn from consequences; sounds like you have got one of those. Put it back on them. If the teachers are all ABA oriented, they will want to work out ever more dire sticks and attractive carrots. Challenge them to create ways to interest and inspire him in the work. He won't do it unless it makes sense to him. You have a right to set a limit on his homework time: 30 minutes a day is plenty for an 8 year old. Put it in his IEP and also put that they are to modify the length of his assignments so it does not take so long. Then look at other mainstream classrooms with structured and flexible teachers where he might not be so bored. From a mom and a teacher.

•    Anonymous said… I'm not sure getting rid of the homework is the best idea if they are HFA. More perhaps making it into bite sized easy chunks. If you look at those people in top level scientific and academic careers, the major portion are HFA. Whilst our kids have some issues we see as weakness, they have some massive strengths in their ability to focus on one study area and become the best at that. Means they are Dr, Professor material and it would be better for our education system to realise and focus on that ability, by tailoring work and homework to gradually find and refocus them. Stopping their homework is giving up because it makes your life easier, just like many schools 30 years ago gave up on many plonking them in the dunse class. Don't give up try to work with them and the school to find their natural skills set, and fire them in that direction. And I say that as a parent struggling where you all are, but also as someone with HFA whose parents managed to steer me in the academic direction where I have a PhD and earn well above most others I was schooled with. Thats what I wish for my kids.

•    Anonymous said… NEVER ok to discipline kids like him by making him write. Great book: The Kasdin (or Kasden) method. Worked wonders for us w/ our boys. School should back you on this one. Get it in his IEP paperwork too.

•    Anonymous said… No No No they clearly do not understand these children need to go home and be part of the family! My now 15 year old Aspie once said to me when I asked him why we used to battle over homework - "Because school is for school work & home is to relax and play games and be with you!" When it is interfering with your relationship with the child then it has to stop! I told the school if it gets done great if not so be it! As for writing lines and reasons I should be good this will confuse him and cause no learning just stress! Find another school!

•    Anonymous said… Our doctor (for autism) recommended he be taken off gluten and all dairy. It has made a huge difference in anger, depression and lashing out. Just a small amount can make things miserable again. Not saying that is IT because he still has small episodes but nothing like what it used to be.

•    Anonymous said… Poor guy. We switched schools and it didn't help, bumped up his therapy and the day he had therapy he was fine..so his therapist wrote a two week note for him to miss school I started home schooling him with the work school sent and two starwars spelling and cursive work book he picked out and in those two weeks he finished ALL his work in 4days and no problems..NONE! That was it for me, we pulled him and he's now doing Easy Peasy all in one on line along with book work we chose together and ABeka..it was his Teacher, the noise, lights and to much moving around of other people he now tells us. 3yrs and still doing great! I would say talk to his therapist and have the school call you after one hour of him not working an go up there if you can if not talk to him and see if that doesn't help, look into getting him a service animal, or he may need a "helper" in class to give him one on one with a reward of like "work :30 and get :05 break or walk outside!" I'll be praying for both of you!! OOo and...YOUR a DARN good mom!!!!

•    Anonymous said… Schools often do nothing but babysit. It is not uncommon for children in regular class to have all their work sent home. Have you thought about home schooling? We have already decided my grandchild will be homeschooled just to avoid these issues.

•    Anonymous said… Sorry I don't believe in homework fullstop let alone using it to correct behaviour. I'm a behavioural therapist. Maybe trying to find out the reason behind the behaviours would be a good start. Hugs.

•    Anonymous said… Stop depriving of what keeps him happy. We would all be miserable if lived in a world with nothing to look forward too

•    Anonymous said… That school needs to be educated about Asperger kids... some schools are not the right fit for your kid & always remember you are the parent, if you don't agree with how they are handling it, speak up... the only person who can fight your battles for your kids is you, something I've learnt from having 2 aspie kids with different needs.. good luck  🙂

•    Anonymous said… The homework is just wrong! No adult wants to go to work for a full day and bring home work that will take up the rest of their day. Doing this to a child is simply cruel. This little guy has to feel like he's in a no-win situation...that's because he is. What is the special class comprised of? If he's refusing to do his work at school, what do they have him doing all day? I have serious doubts about the competency and knowledge of spectrum disorder at your son's school. My HFA son just turned 9, and discipline can be a total nightmare. However, he sees a therapist once a week, which helps a lot. It's slow progress, but it is progress. He actually looks forward to going, especially if he can give her good news about how he handled something that is normally difficult for him. As for rewards, etc., long term goals don't work for us at all. Daily goals seem to help keep his anxiety level down and he feels the reward of accomplishment sooner and more often.

•    Anonymous said… The school has it WRONG! 1) Writing should never be a punishment. 2) Even if he was skilled at controlling his anger, an Aspie boy that age is very unlikely to be able to articulate it, especially in writing, and 3) if the school is aware of this it sounds like they are just shoving pain onto you. Home should offer restorative time, at least part of the evening. He needs a new IEP first of all. I will say that we resisted the notion of medication for my son, but finally after outbursts teetered on danger to others (me, teachers) he started a very low dose of prozac, which simply took the edge off his anxiety What emerges as hostility is often fear, near panic, frustration. My kid is in college now and managing quite well. There's hope-- but get him a better IEP!

•    Anonymous said… There is no singular approach that is globally effective. When a child's parents and teachers share a sense of defeat his behaviors will surely reflect that. A child's world often becomes increasingly extreme as we experience more and more defeat. Of course, extremes typically don't resonate well with kids. Behavioral interventions like those you describe can be helpful- though not in isolation. I might start by exploring those parts of his world that have tended toward the extreme (e.g., homework, fun family time, etc.) and make changes wherever practical. Often at this point our attention is concentrated squarely on the behaviors we don't want to have happen. Unfortunately, we get more of what we pay attention to. To invite new, more preferable ways of being, it is helpful to focus more on nurturing those behaviors we want to have happen rather than punishing unwanted behaviors.

•    Anonymous said… To me it sounds very negative. He could already be feeling like he gets everything wrong then he has to write about it. With the right supports he can be taught how to behave appropriately and when he does he needs to be rewarded and feel good about himself. Self esteem is the number one important thing to nurture in my opinion. Nobody likes to feel bad about themselves especially if he is getting into trouble over behaviours he can't control or even understand why they are inappropriate.

•    Anonymous said… We give our 7 yr old girl with Aspergers and poss adhd (awaiting assessment) a supplement of high omega 3, which really helps take the edge off. She is a lot calmer, and concentration is improved too. X

•    Anonymous said… What's the point of him going to school if he's doing 4 hrs 1-1 at home. And they need their free time to unwind . Poor bugger . It's so hard getting parenting right never mind the added pressure of homework. Big hugsxx

•    Anonymous said… WRONG they are doing it completely wrong and not helping him or themselves. I'd change his school or get in there and nail some butts to the wall. My kid had problems BUT he's at 11/12 grade level now bc teachers got involved and I don't play.
*     Anonymous said...
    My daughter will be 17 next month. She also struggled with homework. We worked it out where she would spend 30 minutes and whatever got done, got done. I learned that a few things back then:
    1. They will usually try hard to control their behavior in school, but home is a safe place, non judgmental, and above all accepting.
    2. Consequences do not work for kids with Asperger’s. And dangling a carrot is just pointless. These kids are smart. They know that they’ll never have it, so why try.
    3. Rewarding them for positive is better than punishing for negative. Their behavior is seen as unacceptable when it’s just a byproduct of being on the spectrum. Set small achievable goals for them. Always look for ways to say “that is wonderful that you …..” or “you’re such a good boy/girl” and most importantly show affection. Say “I love you” to them. Hug them regardless of their behaviors. Always remember as well, that when they do something wrong and you need to talk to them about the situation to choose your words carefully, like “I want to talk to you about why you did XYZ. Was it because you were sad or feeling lonely?” Add in feelings or a reason for their behavior. Also tell them that you are not upset with the but with what they did. This is only if they did something that needs to be talked about, like hitting, swearing, yelling. Things that effect safety or treatment towards others or themselves.
    4. When my daughter was sad we would do a choice activity, like going to the playground or maybe play dough or kinetic sand. Sometimes making popcorn, cuddling while watching one of her shows or a movie was nice. Also doing choice activities before homework or something non-preferred helped.
    5. When she was in preschool, kindergarten and grade school I made a visual daily calendar. Like pictures that you would Velcro onto a board. You would move them around according to her daily schedule.
    As a toddler I made a rice bin where she would sit in a huge Rubbermaid tub with raw rice and I put measuring cups in or hid little toys like matchbox cars or the little toy soldiers.
    I had no money for a weighted vest so I bought a stuffed animal from Goodwill and made a hole in the stomach (don’t let them see you do this) and added raw rice to create a weighted stuffed animal that weighed nicely on her lap.
    She had separation anxiety and I laminated family photos where we each said something nice on them, had them laminated ( hard laminate) and put them on a key ring and it stayed in her backpack if she needed it.
    There’s just so many possibilities for things. Get to know all about them. Ask their input. Sometimes it does require thinking outside the box.
    Please be gentle with them above all else. She then respect. If they’re sad/mad, then something is wrong.

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