How to Prevent Discipline-Related Meltdowns: Tips for Parents of Kids on the Spectrum

“Are there some ways to prevent some of the discipline-related problems encountered with children who have high functioning autism, specifically meltdowns associated with receiving a consequence for misbehavior? I say ‘prevent’ because it seems that once my son knows he is going to be punished, it quickly escalates into meltdown, which by then is much too late to intervene. Is there a way for us to ‘predict’ and thus prevent a potential meltdown?”

Most parents of kids with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's wait until a problem occurs, and then try to deal with it by issuing a consequence. Consequences can be positive (gaining something desirable) or negative (losing something desirable).

Sometimes, consequences are discussed prior to an event, but usually in terms of a motivator: "If you do this, you will gain (or lose) that." Too often, parents use consequences in the middle of a behavior problem (e.g., "If you don't stop that, you’re not going to play your computer game tonight!”). 

Statements such as this are made when the behavior is out-of-control. The parent may have given many warnings up to that point - and is now acting out of frustration. But, warnings issued in the heat of the moment rarely lead to positive change in the short or long term.

With children on the autism spectrum, it’s far better to anticipate the occurrence of a behavior - and then plan for it. How? Well, many behavior problems are repetitious, especially in the same situation. Even when they don't occur EVERY time, they may still be frequent enough to make the parent’s “red alert list” (i.e., a list of events that result in problem behaviors that tend to occur frequently).

For example, one mother made note that nearly every time her son was instructed to bathe, he insisted on finishing his video game first (in order to stall). The mounting meltdown had little to do with the video game, rather it was related to avoiding an unwanted task.

A good rule of thumb is if a behavior repeats itself at least 50% of the time, moms and dads need to prepare for it. So, if homework, dinnertime or bedtime have been frequent problems in the past, chances are very good they will continue to be so in the future.

With a “red alert list,” parents can predict the future to a point. They gain the opportunity to forecast what is going to happen in an upcoming situation because of its constant re-occurrence. When parents have a good idea about what is going to happen, they can prepare their youngster for the event prior to its occurrence by discussing what usually occurs and what needs to occur. 
==> How to Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums in Children with HFA and Asperger's

For example, let’s say that “going shopping” is often a problem-time. In this case, the parent can talk with her youngster (prior to the event) about what normally happens, how he acts, how she is going to respond, and how he is going change his behavior based on her response. Then the parent can follow that up with a discussion to see if she can get a firm commitment from her youngster that he is going to follow through with these new behaviors. 

If the child responds in a positive way, the parent has an increased likelihood that things will go better when they go shopping – especially if this preparation step is practiced over and over again through the course of several weeks or months.

If parents happen to miss the opportunity to prevent a problem, there is often a small "window of opportunity" in which they can still salvage the situation. In the example above, suppose the parent forgot to say something prior to going shopping. As the child’s behavior begins to deteriorate, the parent has a very brief period of time (only a minute or two) before she will be in a tricky situation. The parent should seize this opportunity, because it may be the last best one in that specific time and place.

In summary, create a list of events that - at least half the time - result in your child acting-out. Prior to each event, discuss (a) what normally happens, and (b) what you expect the new outcome to be. Then try to get your child's approval on the new outcome. Lastly, practice this sequence until it becomes a habit.

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

Click here to read the full article…


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

Click here for the full article...


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

Click here to read the full article…


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

Click here to read the full article…


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

Click here
to read the full article...


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

Click here for the full article...
A child with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) can have difficulty in school because, since he fits in so well, many adults may miss the fact that he has a diagnosis. When these children display symptoms of their disorder, they may be seen as defiant or disruptive.

Click here for the full article...

No comments:

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...