Motivating Teenagers on the Autism Spectrum

Question

I need to put drive in my 15 yr old son with ASD. When I discipline him with taking things away ... nothing seems to work unless I TOTALLY get frustrated ... then he reacts. I would like him to CARE.

Answer

Most teens with ASD [High-Functioning Autism] struggle with social skills, communication, and a limited diet. The causes of these struggles (e.g., social, communication and behavioral problems, sensory issues, etc.) can create the desire for isolation and a lack of motivation. Teens with ASD easily drop into a lonely state of depression, making the original problems that much worse.

Behavior modification is the most popular area of concentration when treating teens on the spectrum. Social skills therapy and living skills therapy are widely available and do bring about effective progress in most cases. However, you are looking for something new to try.

Motivation is the key to improving your teenager’s circumstances. Actually, motivation is a factor anytime you are seeking to modify any teenager’s unwanted behaviors. Now motivation in itself is definitely an old concept, but using motivation in a new way will create the wanted result for your teenager.

Old Motivation—

As moms and dads, we often use set motivators to achieve the behavior we feel is appropriate. The concentration has been placed on the behavior, which sets a negative tone to the process of change. You can’t blame a teenager for reacting negatively to a negative tone.

• Rewards or bribery- “If you do ______ today, I’ll buy you a ______.” We’re guilty of this one, too. This probably creates more confusion and greed than motivation over time.

• Punishment- “If you don’t do ______, then you will get ______!” We all use this at one time or another and over the course of time, it has proven to be an ineffective motivator.

New Motivation—

Motivators should be positive. It feels good to see your teenager happily learning or cooperating in desired behaviors. Motivators that appeal to the individual teenager should be used for maximum results. Motivation is definitely personal. What motivates one teenager will not work for every teenager.

• Routines- Keeping your teenager’s routines constant will improve his outlook. He’ll know what to expect at any given time, lessening the stress he feels.

• Special Interests- Using your teenager’s special interests both at home and at school can generate positive responses in all situations. For example, your 13-year-old's  love of trains can be used to encourage eating at home. Train themed dinnerware or even themed foods may be used to entice the reluctant eater.

==> More Strategies for DEFIANT ASD TEENS

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