Showing posts sorted by relevance for query misbehavior. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query misbehavior. Sort by date Show all posts

Managing Disruptive Behavior in Children with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

“We've been going in circles with our high functioning (autistic) 8 y.o. and his disruptive behavior – hitting, kicking, throwing things, just to name a few. We have tried all that we know to try. It's been difficult when he acts out, not respecting us or his siblings. It impacts the entire family! Do you have any ideas of how to handle disruptive behavior of this kind?”

One of the biggest obstacles a parent faces is managing disruptive behavior in the child with Asperger’s (AS) or High-Functioning Autism (HFA). Whether the child is refusing to eat what was prepared, or throwing tantrum on the way to school, the parent can find herself at a loss for an effective way to respond.

If you are at your wits end, the ABC method can provide a roadmap to a calmer, more reliable way to manage problematic behaviors. This method also offers a chance to help the AS or HFA child to gain the developmental skills he needs to regulate his own behavior.

The ABC Method of Behavior Management

To understand and respond successfully to misbehavior, parents have to think about what came before it – and what comes after it. Here are the 3 crucial features to any given behavior:
  • Antecedent: This is the preceding factor (or trigger) that makes a behavior more or less likely to occur. Learning and anticipating the antecedent is a very helpful tool in preventing problematic behavior.
  • Behavior: This, of course, is the specific action the parent is trying to discourage - or encourage - as the case may be.
  • Consequence: This refers to the result that logically and naturally follows a behavior. The consequence affects the likelihood of a behavior recurring, whether it’s positive or negative. Also, the more immediate the consequence, the more influential it is.

Identifying “target behaviors” is the first step in a good behavior-management plan. These behaviors need to be (a) specific (so both parent and child are clear on what is expected), (b) observable, and (c) measurable (so parent and child can agree whether or not the behavior happened). An example of poorly defined behavior is “acting-out,” or “being mean.” An example of well-defined behavior is “completing homework” (good) “pushing your sister” (bad).

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


Antecedents come in many forms. Some are wonderful tools that assist the parent in managing misbehavior before it begins as well as bolstering appropriate behavior, while others facilitate misbehavior. Let’s look at each of these in turn…

Antecedents that bolster appropriate behavior:

1. Providing countdowns for transitions: As often as possible, the parent should prepare her AS or HFA child for an upcoming transition. For example, let the child know when there are 15 minutes remaining …then 10 minutes …then 5 before he must come to dinner or start his homework. Note: Making the transition at the stated time is just as important as issuing the countdown.

2. Making expectations clear: Parents will get better cooperation if they and their youngster are clear on what is expected. Its best to sit down with the child and present the information verbally – and then put it in writing and post it in a prominent location. Even the child “should know” what is expected, explaining expectations at the outset of a task will help avoid misunderstandings down the line.

3. Letting children have a choice: As the child grows up, it’s crucial she has a say in her own scheduling. Giving a structured choice can help her feel empowered and encourage her to become more self-regulating (e.g., “Do you want to pick up your dirty clothes before or after dinner?”).

4. Being aware of the situation: Parents need to consider and manage both emotional and environmental factors. For example, anxiety, hunger, fatigue, or distractions can all make it much more difficult for the youngster to effectively manage his behavior.

5. Adjusting the environment: Examples of adjusting the environment are (a) removing distractions such as video screens and toys when it’s time to do homework, (b) providing a snack, (c) establishing an organized space for the child to work, and (d) making sure to schedule some breaks.

Antecedents that facilitate misbehavior:

1. Initiating transitions without warnings: A transition is hard for a child with AS or HFA – especially in the middle of something he is enjoying. Providing a warning gives the youngster the opportunity to find a good stopping place for an activity and makes the transition less stressful.

2. Shouting instructions out from a distance: It’s helpful to give the child important instructions face-to-face. A parent’s request that is yelled from a distance is less likely to be understood and remembered.

3. Assuming expectations are comprehended: Parents should not assume that their child automatically knows what is expected of him. The expectation needs to be spelled out! Demands change from circumstance to circumstance, and when the youngster is unsure of what he is supposed to be doing, he’s more likely to engage in problematic behavior.

4. Giving too many instructions at once: If parents deliver a series of instructions or ask a lot of questions, it limits the likelihood that the child will hear, answer questions, remember the tasks, and do what she has been instructed to do.

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


Not all consequences are created equal. Some have the potential to do more harm than good, while others are an exceptional way to create structure and help AS and HFA children understand the difference between unacceptable and acceptable behaviors. As a mother or father, having a good understanding of how to consistently and intelligently employ consequences can make a huge difference in outcomes.

Consequences that bolster appropriate behavior:

1. Being clear and concrete when using time-outs: Parents should establish which behaviors will result in a time-out. When the AS or HFA youngster exhibits that behavior, the corresponding time-out needs to be relatively brief and immediately follow the misbehavior. If a time-out was delivered for not complying with a task, once it ends, the youngster needs to be instructed to complete the original task. In this way, he or she won’t begin to see time-outs as an escape method. During the time-out, parents should not talk to their youngster until he or she is ending the time-out. It should end once the youngster has been calm and quiet for a brief amount of time so that he or she learns to associate the end of time-out with this desired behavior.

2. Staying consistent: If parents arbitrarily issue time-outs when they are feeling aggravated, it will undermine the behavior-management system and make it harder for the youngster to connect behaviors to consequences.

3. Using active ignoring: Ignoring is used for minor misbehaviors and involves the deliberate withdrawal of attention when the youngster starts to misbehave. With this method, parents pick their battles carefully and save their energy for the larger issues that need to be addressed (e.g., verbal or physical aggression). As parents ignore, they wait for appropriate behavior to resume. Then they should give positive attention as soon as the desired behavior starts. By withholding attention until positive behavior is exhibited, parents are teaching their youngster what behavior gets acknowledged and praised.

4. Using positive attention for positive behaviors: When parents give their youngster positive reinforcement for behaving appropriately, it helps maintain that ongoing good behavior. Positive attention improves self-esteem and enhances the quality of the parent-child relationship. Positive attention to “brave behavior” can also help alleviate anxiety, as well as help the child become more receptive to instructions and limit-setting.

5. Using reward menus: A reward is a tangible way to give your youngster positive feedback for desired behaviors. It’s something that is earned, an acknowledgement that the child is doing something that’s difficult for him. A reward is most effective as a motivator when the youngster can choose from a variety of things (e.g., a special treat, extra time on the computer, etc.). This reduces the possibility of a reward losing its allure over time. Also, the reward needs to be linked to specific behaviors – and always delivered consistently.

==> Parenting System that Reduces Problematic Behavior in Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism 

Consequences that facilitate misbehavior:

1. Using positive consequences for negative behaviors: This reinforces the behavior you are trying to eliminate. For example, if your youngster procrastinates instead of putting on her shoes or pouring milk for her cereal, in frustration, you do it for her, you have just increased the likelihood that she will procrastinate again in the future.

2. Giving negative attention: Negative attention actually increases bad behavior over time (e.g., raising your voice, threatening to issue a consequence, etc.). Also, reacting to misbehavior with criticism or yelling negatively affects your youngster’s self-esteem. Kids value attention from their parents so much that any attention — negative or positive — is better than none.

3. Using disproportionate consequences: As a parent of a child on the autism spectrum, you understandably get perturbed from time to time. You may even have become so frustrated at a particular behavior that you said or did something that you felt guilty about later. This is normal and to be expected.  But, keep in mind that issuing a massive consequence – especially out of anger – that is not in proportion to the misbehavior is demoralizing for kids, and they may even give up trying to behave well.

4. Delaying consequences: Effective consequences are immediate. Every minute that passes after a behavior, your youngster is less likely to link his misbehavior to the consequence. As a result, you end up punishing for the sake of punishing, which makes it much less likely that the misbehavior will change.

Though kids with AS and HFA are found to have neurologically and developmental related symptoms over time, the primary problem is behavior. Moms and dads need an arsenal of coping methods to reduce the behavioral problems at home. By utilizing the suggestions listed above, such problems can be reduced to a more manageable - and livable - level.

==> More parenting strategies for dealing with behavioral problems in children and teens on the autism spectrum...

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

==> Parenting System that Reduces Problematic Behavior in Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

Misbehavior versus Aspergers-Related Behavior


How can I tell the difference between “aspergers behavior” and pure “disobedience” …I’m not sure what should be punished – and what should not?


Many moms and dads have a difficult time distinguishing between “disobedience” and “misunderstanding” in their Aspergers (high functioning autism) youngster. Because he may not interpret social cues correctly, it may be difficult for an Aspergers youngster to understand what is expected of him, and he may not understand the impact his behavior has on other family members.

So, how can parents tell the difference between “Aspergers behavior” versus “misbehavior”?

Most Aspergers-related behavior (sometimes misinterpreted by parents as “misbehavior”) tends to revolve around the child’s resistance to any kind of change. An Aspergers child is resistant to change for the following reasons:
  • Has anxiety about a current or upcoming event (e.g., the start of school)
  • Does not understanding how the world works
  • Does not understanding the actions of someone else
  • Has other issues like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)
  • Is reluctance to participate in an activity he cannot do perfectly or an activity that is difficult
  • Parent or teacher changes a circumstance or rule that has been established
  • Has the need for instant satisfaction and may not understand delayed gratification
  • Has the need to control a situation
  • Has the need to keep doing the activity that he likes (obsession or fantasy)
  • Has difficulty transitioning to another activity (this is especially hard if the activity is not finished)

Any or all of these triggers can result in certain behavioral patterns that “look like” misbehavior (e.g., arguing, tantruming, refusing to listen, etc.). However, his responses to these triggers have more to do with anxiety and rigidity than his need to defy authority. He simply does not have the ability to understand the world like we do.

The Aspergers child:
  • does not “take in” what is going on around him
  • does not know how to “read between the lines”
  • does not understand implied directions
  • does not understand social cues
  • needs explicit instructions
  • will have difficulty understanding rules of society

Uncovering triggers for negative behavior is important. Keep a behavior diary, noting any events surrounding negative behaviors, the details of your youngster's responses, and any unintentional reinforcement your youngster receives that may be encouraging repeat behavior. The motivation behind negative behavior in Aspergers kids is often very different from other kids, which makes identifying the cause of those behaviors and developing a behavior treatment plan very difficult.

Many negative behaviors exhibited by Aspergers kids are a direct result of the condition. Parents, teachers, and professionals must consider this when developing behavior treatments.

  • Aspergers kids may be unable to resist giving in to their obsessions and compulsions, and this is not a sign of disobedience.
  • Because Aspergers kids have difficulty interpreting social cues and tend to be egocentric, they cannot fully appreciate what impact their behaviors have on others.
  • Due to trouble handling changes in routine, a simple variation in schedules may be enough to cause a meltdown.
  • Odd behaviors are not reflective of defiance and are not meant to irritate or annoy.
  • Aspergers kids may exhibit a lack of common sense.

Moms and dads with an Aspergers youngster should receive professional training so that they can continue working with their child at home. Behavioral techniques are best when adapted to suit the home environment, and they should focus on issues directly related to home life and self-help skills while continuing with the goals established in school.

So when is the Aspergers child actually “misbehaving”?

Children misbehave for the following reasons (you can be pretty sure that the behavior is not Aspergers-related here):

1. To get attention. It is frequently noticed that when children feel a lack of attention, they get themselves noticed by their parents by resorting to misbehavior.

2. When they are disappointed. Sometimes, children get irritated and frustrated when things do not happen as per their wish. It is during these times that they usually misbehave.

3. When they test their parent's discipline. To check that their parents truly mean what they say, sometimes children misbehave. They check to see if their parent's will really enforce a rule or not.

4. When they want to assert their independence. Almost all the children hate being called a 'child'. To assert their independence, they often end up misbehaving.

5. When they have been previously “rewarded” for their misbehavior. No parent would ever think of purposefully rewarding bad behavior, but it subtly happens quite often.

6. When they copy the actions of their parents. The best teacher of how to misbehave or act and speak inappropriately is by watching mom or dad misbehave or act and speak inappropriately. Remember, what children see and experience in the home is what their normal is. So, if they see mom and dad yelling, they will yell. If they get spanked, they will likely use hitting to express their anger or frustration. If they hear, “What?” instead of “Pardon?” that is what they will use.

==> Preventing Tantrums and Meltdowns in Aspergers and HFA Children

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 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…

Imposing Effective Consequences for Noncompliant Teens on the Autism Spectrum

“I’m a single mom raising a son on the spectrum (high functioning autistic). He is 16 and a half years old. I get eye rolls from him on a daily basis, impatient ‘Duhs’ when I say something that is apparently just so obvious, and the insistence on having it his way, whether it’s a minor event (“I want 10 more minutes on this game”), or more major (“I’m not going to dad’s this weekend”). I think he was picking up some of this cocky attitude from a few other students in school who are known to be trouble makers. Some of it I chalk up to his strong-willed personality, and, of course, a lot of it has to be his disorder. So, because I passionately want him to grow up to be strong, but not obnoxious …confident, but not rude …and determined, but not defiant, I need some advice on how to use positive discipline with this child.”

Issuing consequences to an “out of line” adolescent with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) or Asperger’s (AS) is likely to bring out the best and the worst in parents. They want to help their son or daughter make up for what's missing by increasing their love and attention, but these “special needs” adolescents can trigger unique frustrations in moms and dads.

Most adolescents go through foreseeable stages of development in the teen years. Parents know about when to expect what behavior - and how long it will last. When parents know that they don't have to weather this “challenging behavior” phase indefinitely, it helps them cope. But, with many ASD adolescents, the “challenging behavior” stage seems to go on forever, as does the aggravation for the parent.

Raising an autistic teen is a tough job. The joys and sorrows – as well as the ups and downs – are amplified. You cheer at each accomplishment, and you agonize about each new challenge.

==> Discipline for Defiant Aspergers and High-Functioning Autistic Teens

Here are some important disciplinary strategies for adolescents on the autism spectrum:

1. Visual aids may help your adolescent see the reason behind your disciplinary techniques.  Make an “If/Then Chart” or a “Consequence Chart” that shows exactly what will happen if your adolescent engages in a particular behavioral problem – and why that specific discipline “fits the crime.” Always remember this major tenet: Adolescents on the spectrum thrive on structure and clear rules! Thus, posting a list of unacceptable behaviors and their consequences is very helpful.

2. Another visual aid that is needed is a “rewards chart.”  Equal importance should be placed on appropriate behavior (e.g., acknowledgement and praise, tangible rewards, etc.) to balance out the negative side of things.

3. View “disobedience” as a sign that your teen “needs” something. Every “misbehavior” an ASD adolescent engages in tells parents something about what he or she needs. For example, if your son becomes indignant when asked to do his homework while he is in the middle of playing video games, he is saying in essence, “I’m not prepared to make that transition right now.” Thus, what’s needed here is more structure, which could entail an “activities chart” that illustrates the exact time homework is to be started (and possibly an alarm that sounds 15 minutes prior to “homework time” as a reminder). In this way, there are no disappointing surprises.

4. Of course, there are occasions when consequences for poor choices become necessary (e.g., grounding, taking away privileges, etc.). But, with autistic teens, the consequences should always be (a) immediate, (b) specific, (c) relevant, and (d) short-term:
  • Immediate – A “special needs” teen is likely to have a short memory. So, a consequence issued later in the day for misbehavior that occurred earlier that morning will lose its effectiveness.
  • Specific – ASD teens are very fact-oriented and do not do well in ambiguous situations. Thus, parents must briefly explain in very concrete terms why the teen is receiving a particular consequence.
  • Relevant –  Adolescents on the autism spectrum may not be able to perceive cause-and-effect, thus the consequence must make sense to them. For example, withdrawing a privilege (such as loss of computer time) for being rude is not relevant to the infraction. Playing on the computer has nothing to do with rudeness. In this case, a more germane consequence would be to have the teen apologize to the offended party. (Note: I’m not saying that you should NEVER issue a consequence that doesn’t have a direct tie-in to the misbehavior in question, simply use the loose tie-in as a last resort. In the example above, if the teen refuses to apologize for being rude, then give him the option of (a) apologizing or (b) losing his favorite activity for a period of time. In this way, he has the choice to accept the lesser consequence - an apology, or the stiffer one - loss or privileges.)
  • Short-term – Prolonged consequences will lose their impact due to the fact that most teens on the spectrum have attentional difficulties. In other words, if they are grounded for 3 days, they may forget why they are being punished after the second day.

5. Positive consequences have been shown to be very effective in changing the inappropriate behavior patterns of autistic adolescents (e.g., praise, encouragement, positive reinforcement, etc.). For example, complimenting your adolescent for a responsible, cooperative, or compassionate act will tend to promote that behavior. Thus, catch your teenager doing things right MORE OFTEN than you catch him or her doing things wrong. Diligently search for these opportunities.


6. Keep a diary of your teen’s behavior with the goal of discovering patterns or triggers for misconduct. Recurring behavior may be indicative of the teen taking some gratification in receiving a desired response from the parent or teacher. For instance, the teen may discover that arguing with one of his classmates will result in his being removed from class, which is exactly what he wants.

In this case, the punishment for the misbehavior, or attempting to explain the situation from the perspective of the classmate, may not provide a solution. Instead, it would be best to look at the motivation for the misbehavior. A good question to ask is, “How can this teenager be made more comfortable in class so that he will not want to leave it?”

7. Pick your battles carefully. You can’t possibly address every behavior problem that comes down the pike. Also, some behavior problems may need some form of therapy in order to be eliminated, rather than some form of discipline. So, learn to prioritize. Make a list of 3 or 4 behaviors that you feel are the most deserving of attention, and only work on those.

8. Some parents of a teen on the spectrum can become overprotective. They may make frequent excuses for his behavior, or they may not impose consequences for poor choices where most others agree it to be warranted. When this happens – regardless of the disorder – the balance of authority shifts. The teenager gains more and more control while being protected in a sheltered environment with little or no discipline.

The parent who does very little in the way of discipline, or who micromanages every aspect of the teen’s life is teaching some very artificial life lessons that will significantly hinder the teen in the real world. Knowing when, how, and how much to discipline the ASD teen is very challenging. You may be filled with worry for your teen and his future. But, you still need to find balance in your role as a parent and disciplinarian. There is a fine line between being an effective mother or father, and being perceived as pampering of the “special needs” teen.

9. Don't lower your standards of discipline simply because you have a “special needs” teen. Parents may be tempted to get lax and let their adolescent get by with behaviors they wouldn't tolerate from their other children. Just as with any other teen, adolescents on the autism spectrum need to know - early on - what behavior parents expect. Some moms and dads wait too long to start their “tough love” strategies for out-of-control teen behavior. Then, as their teen transitions to adulthood, parents wonder why their adult child is still playing video games in the basement rather than attending college or working somewhere.

10. Don’t allow yourself to feel guilty for imposing appropriate consequences – even when the child has a “disorder.” Behavior management is not about punishing or demoralizing your teenager. Rather, it's a way to lovingly set boundaries and communicate expectations. Imposing consequences is one of the most important ways you show your  teen that you love and care about him.

11. Help your adolescent build a sense of responsibility. Parents of “special needs” teens may be tempted to rush in and do things for them. But for these adolescents, the principle of "show them how to fish rather than give them a fish" applies all the more.

12. Adolescents on the spectrum tend to prefer being isolated. Thus, being sent to their room for a time-out can actually be a reward for misbehavior unless modified slightly (e.g., being sent to the room with no computer privileges).

Knowing the best way to impose consequences for misbehavior is not an easy task, particularly in light of some of the characteristics commonly associated with the ASD level 1 (e.g., the tendency to blame others rather than assume responsibility for behavior, the inability to perceive cause-and-effect, difficulty generalizing from one situation to another, having a short memory for misdeeds - but not for the consequences, and so on). Nevertheless, with patience, humor, and a sense of perspective, you can become your adolescent's supporter and advocate, even in your role of authority.

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

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


•    Anonymous said… After going to an all day training on the (neurotypical) teenage brain, I came to believe that typical teenage behavior/brain development is very, very similar to autistic behavior, so all the best techniques that you already use will be helpful. One tidbit I loved is learning that typical teens can't read facial expressions accurately and misread everything as anger, leading to defensiveness, so I tell our boys, "Your brain seems to be misinterpreting something you see on our (parent) faces that isn't there. We are surprised, not angry. Please try (that attitude in response) again." (Also, don't lift your eyebrows. Communicate as if you have Botox face. Every facial twitch can make them feel afraid of/react to misperceived perceived anger.) Teaching our own boys about the parts of their brain and how it changes (esp prefrontal cortex) has been helpful in our home. Logic helps them understand the emotion and to know that what they are experiencing is completely normal (brain and hormonal), so it takes some of the reaction away and allows everyone to respond. The more I learn about development at each stage, the better I can figure out the most effective tools to adapt for my kiddos. I can't find the specific seminar link right now but this link has some great tidbits.
•    Anonymous said… Ahhhh summer vacation is just barely a week old yet .. my kid has already spent 1 full day of boooooring with no electronics .. at my office doing tedious but simple tasks.
I don't have the patience to deal with the sass & non-listening for the entire summer. I already feel like a broken record. Thank goodness I have a boss that is ok with me bringing in my kid once in a while. I tell her that if she cannot behave for the other adults (like grandparents & sitters), then I have to watch her and the only way I can do that is if she comes to work. So no fun activities, or even "boring tv" or "boring sitting in the backyard reading" .. then she can tag along to work instead.
•    Anonymous said… Btw .. mine is 11.5 .. she has a "phone" - it doesn't have a phone but it had apps & internet & YouTube .. plus she has a d/s & a wiiu and we live super close o a library and within walking distance of a splash pad and a dollar store (so there's often cheap snacks/trinkets) ..  So a day at my office once in a while usually helps with the attitude for a while .. especially with the potential threat of all p.a. days sitting by the shredder  :p
•    Anonymous said… I have a nineteen year old who has Aspergers, he is wonderful, but his life is very so many ways
•    Anonymous said… I have twin daughters on the spectrum (HFA) - they are 11 now but when they were younger they did this and then they would answer each other in quotes- as if it were normal. They still go line for line when they find dialogue that amuses them
•    Anonymous said… I think support forum is needed. I feel awfully stressed when my son is this way too
•    Anonymous said… I use my friends sons who are similar ages to my Aspie son as a guide to filter out normal behaviour versus classic Aspie behaviour. To be honest I have found that in the main my son is just going through typical teenager angsts, Similar to what you have described above. Most of my parenting comes from trial and error with him, although his behaviour is mostly typical teenager stuff, the style of discipline he responds to is very different from the other children who are not on the spectrum. I always set clear instructions and give fore-warnings, for example I will go up 30 mins before he is due to turn of the computer and remind him that his time is up soon etc. I never leave it 5 mins before as I know it will cause a meltdown as the transition that quickly is too much for him. Sometimes we have to modify our parenting. Speak to your DR to see if you have any parenting classes for ASD or support groups in your area to get advice etc.
•    Anonymous said… I would honestly tell him how what he says makes you feel/ why you are asking him to do/ not do something. I spell it out for every kid I teach. It tends to help them understand better what I am asking of them and why. Less confusion, less resentment, and much less attitude when the realize I'm not just being a buzz kill because I can. I also dangle a reward for good behaviour. So usually it's at the end of the day they get free time/ a game/ to do something they want if it's possible. Then they tend to stay in line because that reward is strongly desired and they know how to get it.  It has worked for me for students with a range of challenges. I do treat them all like they have choices and the ability to think for themselves. Lots of kids that have given me feedback say that I don't treat them like kids because they feel respected and equal in the conversation. I put things in terms they understand but I talk to them like I would another adult I was having problems with. Often they have logic and reasoning skills good enough to understand at least that part of my explanation.
•    Anonymous said… In all senses I feel for you as I do with what's comin for me! I have 2 NT children who are 21 and 1! And one gorgeous lil aspie who's 6 x
•    Anonymous said… Mine is 6 and like this! God help me  🙏🏼
•    Anonymous said… My 9 yr old is about the sameeeee way
•    Anonymous said… Social behavior is often mimicked without really being understood. It could be a way of communicating even if unappropriate. Perhaps he does not understand how hurtful sarcasm can be.
•    Anonymous said… That's my 18 year old son, except he is verbally abusive. His Dad was no help throughout all of this. He never thought anything was different with him. So he let him run wild at his house.....We had 60/40 time and when my son turned 18. His dad kicked him out because he wanted to stay more with me. Now he is 18 he thinks I can't tell him what to do. It got so bad I had him baker acted. That is involuntary mental hospitalization. He was there for 2 day and now on meds. I'm praying to God. Good luck. I would do strong counseling.
•    Anonymous said… We looked at it as a positive in that at least he was trying to socialize instead of crawling in his own little world
•    Anonymous said… When my aspie daughter has a meltdown, the best way to communicate is through writing down how you feel . I often message my daughter on her phone or tablet, whilst she's upstairs , hiding from the world (she didn't learn to read or write until she was 8 - so I find when she messages me back an amazing feat). It seems easier for her too, to express how she feels without confrontation. The messages always end with 'I love you' x We've sorted many problems out in this way and on some occasions she will come and talk when she's ready x
•    Anonymous said… When our son was in preschool he would often recite lines from television programs in an attempt to communicate with his peers.

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Symptoms of Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism that "Look Like" Misbehavior

As parents of children on the autism spectrum know, there are a multitude of symptoms: 
  • physical (e.g., fine and gross motor skills deficits, sensory sensitivities),
  • mental (e.g., attention difficulties),
  • emotional (e.g., shutdowns, meltdowns, obsessions),
  • and social (e.g., problems reading nonverbal language, difficulty understanding sarcasm).

However, sometimes it becomes extremely difficult for parents to differentiate between (a) behavior problems and (b) symptoms of the disorder that "look like" behavior problems. For example, the Asperger's or high-functioning autistic child who has an allergy or food sensitivity may be cranky during periods of the day. The child who finds it difficult to transition from one activity to the next may experience a meltdown. The child who has difficulty waiting his turn may throw a tantrum. Thus, we need to learn how to adjust our parenting strategies accordingly. 

Sometimes, a consequence for misbehavior is indeed warranted. Other times, the "misbehavior" may be the result of something that stresses the child to the point of acting-out his emotions, because he has not learned any other way to cope with the problem in question (yet).

Any of the following symptoms can result in a behavior pattern that "looks like" intentional misbehavior (or a disrespectful attitude):
  1. Allergies and food sensitivities
  2. Appearance of hearing problems (but hearing has been checked and is fine)
  3. Can become overwhelmed with too much verbal direction
  4. Causes injury to self (e.g., biting, banging head)
  5. Difficulty attending to some tasks
  6. Difficulty changing from one floor surface to another (e.g., carpet to wood, sidewalk to grass)
  7. Difficulty maintaining friendships
  8. Difficulty moving through a space (e.g., bumps into objects or people)
  9. Difficulty reading facial expressions and body language
  10. Difficulty sensing time (e.g., knowing how long 5 minutes is or 3 days or a month)
  11. Difficulty transferring skills from one area to another
  12. Difficulty transitioning from one activity to another
  13. Difficulty understanding directional terms (e.g., front, back, before, after) 
  14. Difficulty understanding group interactions
  15. Difficulty understanding jokes, figures of speech or sarcasm
  16. Difficulty understanding the rules of conversation
  17. Difficulty waiting for their turn (e.g., standing in line)
  18. Difficulty with fine motor activities (e.g., coloring, printing, using scissors, gluing)
  19. Difficulty with reading comprehension (e.g., can quote an answer, but unable to predict, summarize or find symbolism)
  20. Does not generally share observations or experiences with others
  21. Exceptionally high skills in some areas -- and very low in others
  22. Experience sensitivity - or lack of sensitivity - to sounds, textures, tastes, smells or light
  23. Extreme fear for no apparent reason
  24. Feels the need to fix or rearrange things
  25. Fine motor skills are developmentally behind peers (e.g., hand writing, tying shoes, using scissors, etc.)
  26. Gross motor skills are developmentally behind peers (e.g., riding a bike, skating, running)
  27. Has an intolerance to certain food textures, food colors, or the way food is presented on the plate (e.g., one food can’t touch another)
  28. Has an unusually high - or low - pain tolerance
  29. Inability to perceive potentially dangerous situations
  30. Irregular sleep patterns
  31. Makes honest, but inappropriate observations
  32. Makes verbal sounds while listening (i.e., echolalia)
  33. May need to be left alone to release tension and frustration
  34. Meltdowns
  35. Minimal acknowledgement of others
  36. Obsessions with objects, ideas or desires
  37. Odd or unnatural posture (e.g., rigid or floppy)
  38. Often experiences difficulty with loud or sudden sounds
  39. Overly trusting or unable to read the motives behinds peoples’ actions
  40. Perfectionism in certain areas
  41. Play is often repetitive
  42. Prefers to be alone, aloof or overly-friendly
  43. Resistance - or inability - to follow directions
  44. Resistance to being held or touched
  45. Responds to social interactions, but does not initiate them
  46. Ritualistic or compulsive behavior patterns (e.g., sniffing, licking, watching objects fall, flapping arms, spinning, rocking, humming, tapping, sucking, rubbing clothes)
  47. Seems unable to understand another’s feelings
  48. Seizure activity
  49. Short attention span for most lessons
  50. Speech is abnormally loud or quiet
  51. Talks excessively about one or two topics (e.g., dinosaurs, movies, etc.)
  52. Tends to either tune out - or break down - when being reprimanded
  53. Tends to get too close when speaking to someone (i.e., lack of personal space)
  54. Transitioning from one activity to another is difficult
  55. Unaware of/disinterested in what is going on around them
  56. Uses a person’s name excessively when speaking to them
  57. Usually resists change in their environment (e.g., people, places, objects)
  58. Verbal outbursts
  59. Very little or no eye contact

Your child's behavior is observable and measurable (i.e., any action that can be seen or heard). An effective method of examining his or her behavior is the ABC model:

A=Antecedent: The event occurring before a behavior (the event prompts a certain behavior)

B=Behavior:  Response to the events that can be seen or heard

C=Consequence: The event that follows the behavior, which effects whether the behavior will occur again (when the behavior is followed by an unpleasant consequence, it is less likely to reoccur; when the behavior is followed by a pleasant consequence, it is more likely to reoccur)

Let’s look at a simple example of how the ABC model works:

Your child is throwing a temper tantrum because he wants your attention.  If you respond to the tantrum (whether to comfort or scold), your child's misbehavior is being rewarded by your reaction (even though it’s a negative reaction).  Thus, in this situation, it would be best if you waited for the tantrum to stop, and then reward (i.e., reinforce) the calm behavior verbally (e.g., “I like how quiet you are being right now”).  In this way, your child learns that he can gain the your attention through more appropriate behavior.

When using the ABC model, always remember that your child is not an experiment, rather he is an individual capable of changing unwanted behavior - when offered the correct means to do so. It's your job to focus on the behavior you would like to increase or decrease. The more you learn about behavior modification techniques, the more tools you will possess to help shape and promote the behavior you want to see more often in your child.

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

==> Parenting System that Reduces Problematic Behavior in Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

Disciplinary Tips for Difficult Kids on the Autism Spectrum

Disciplining kids displaying difficult behavior associated with ASD or High-Functioning Autism (HFA) will often require an approach that is somewhat different as compared to “typical” kids. Finding the balance between (a) understanding the needs of a youngster on the autism spectrum and (b) discipline that is age appropriate and situationally necessary is achievable when a few effective strategies are applied. These strategies can be implemented both at home and school.

Traditional discipline may fail to produce the desired results for kids with HFA, primarily because these children are often unable to appreciate the consequences of their actions. Consequently, punitive measures may worsen the type of behavior that they are intended to reduce, while at the same time, creating anxiety in both the youngster and parent.

Behavioral Diary—

Parents and teachers should consider maintaining a diary of the youngster's behavior with the goal of discovering patterns or triggers. Recurring behavior may be indicative of the youngster taking some satisfaction in receiving a desired response from parents, teachers, and even classmates. For instance, the HFA youngster may come to understand that hurting one of his peers will result in his being removed from class. 
In this case, punishing the youngster for the behavior, or attempting to explain the situation from the perspective of the injured peer, may not provide a solution. Instead, it would be best to address the root cause behind the motivation for the misbehavior. A good question to find the answer to may be, “How can my student be made more comfortable in class so that he will not want to leave it?”

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

Positive versus Negative Discipline—

One of the ways to address problematic behaviors in autistic kids is to focus on the positive. Praise for good behavior, along with positive reinforcement (e.g., a Reward Book), often helps. Given the autistic youngster’s tendency toward low-frustration tolerance, a verbal cue delivered in a calm manner will elicit a more favorable response than a harsher one. Also, when giving instruction to stop a particular form of misbehavior, it should be expressed as a positive rather than a negative (e.g., rather than telling the youngster to stop hitting his sister with the ruler, the youngster should be directed to put the ruler down – in this way, he is being instructed to DO something positive rather than STOP something negative).

Obsessive or Fixated Behavior—

Almost all kids go through periods of development where they become engrossed in one subject matter or another. But, kids with HFA often display obsessive and repetitive characteristics, which can have significant implications for behavior. For instance, if the youngster becomes fixated on reading a particular story each night, she may become distraught if this routine is disrupted, or if the story is interrupted.

As mentioned earlier, the use of a behavioral diary can help in identifying fixations. Once a fixation is identified, it is important to set appropriate boundaries. Providing a structure within which the child can explore the obsession can help keep the obsession within reasonable limits, without the associated anxiety that may otherwise arise through such restrictions (e.g., telling the youngster she can watch her favorite cartoon for 30 minutes after dinner, and making time for that in her daily routine).

It’s acceptable to use the obsession to motivate and reward the youngster for good behavior. However, make sure that any reward associated with positive behavior is granted immediately in order to help her recognize the connection between the two.

A particularly helpful technique to develop social reciprocity is to have the youngster talk for 5 minutes about her favorite subject – but after she has listened to the parent talk about an unrelated topic. This helps the youngster to understand that not everyone shares her enthusiasm for her “special interest.”

Sibling Issues—

For brothers and sisters who are not on the spectrum, the preferential treatment received by an HFA sibling can give rise to feelings of confusion, frustration, and resentment. Oftentimes, siblings will fail to understand why the “special needs” child apparently seems free to behave as he pleases without much in the way of punishment.

Parents set the tone for sibling interactions and attitudes by example and by direct communications. In any family, kids should be treated fairly and valued as individuals, praised as well as disciplined, and each youngster should have special times with parents. Thus, moms and dads should periodically assess the home situation. Although important goals for a youngster with “special needs” are to develop feelings of self-worth and self-trust, to become as independent as possible, to develop trust in others, and to develop to the fullest of his or her abilities, these goals are also important to the “neurotypical” (i.e., non-autistic) siblings.

To every extent possible, parents should require their HFA child to do as much as possible for himself. Moms and dads should provide every opportunity for a normal family life by doing things together (e.g., cleaning the house or yard, going on family outings, etc.). Also, the youngster with the disorder should be allowed to participate as much as possible in family chores, and should have specific chores assigned (as do the other kids).

Sleep Difficulties—

HFA kids are well-known for experiencing sleep problems. They may be more likely to become anxious about sleeping, or may find they become anxious when waking during the night or early in the morning.

Parents can reduce the youngster's anxiety by making her bedroom a place of safety and comfort (e.g., remove or store items that may be prone to injure the youngster if she decides to wander at night). Also, include in a behavioral diary a record of the youngster's sleep patterns. Keep a list of the child’s routine (e.g., dinner, bath, story, bed, etc.) in order to provide structure. Include an image or symbol of her waking in the morning to help her understand exactly what will happen. In addition, social stories have proven to be a particularly successful method in decreasing a youngster's anxiety by providing clear instructions on how part of her day is likely to unfold.

At School—

Another autistic trait is that the affected youngster will often experience difficulty during parts of the school day that lack structure. Difficulties with social interaction and self-management during “free time” can result in anxiety. The use of a “buddy system” and the creation of a timetable for recess and lunch times can help provide some structure.

Teachers should explain the concept of free time to the HFA youngster, or consider providing a separate purpose or goal for the youngster during such time (e.g., reading a book, helping to set up paint and brushes for the afternoon tasks, etc.).

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

In Public—

Kids with HFA can become overwhelmed to the point of meltdown by even a short exposure to certain public places (e.g., a noisy crowded store). Some parents simply avoid taking their youngster out to such places.

Consider providing the youngster with an iPod, or have the radio on in the car to block out stress-inducing sounds and stimuli. Prepare a social story or list describing the details of a trip (e.g., to the store or doctor). Be sure to include on the list your return home. Also, consider giving the youngster a task to complete during the trip, or having him assist you in some chore (e.g., carrying groceries).

Overprotective Parenting—

Some moms and dads of “special needs” children can become overprotective. They may make frequent excuses for their youngster’s behavior, or they may not discipline where most others agree it to be warranted. When this occurs – regardless of the youngster’s disorder – the balance of authority shifts. The youngster gains more and more control while being protected in a sheltered environment with little or no discipline.

Parents who are overprotective, who do very little in the way of discipline, and who micromanage every aspect of their child’s life are teaching some very artificial life lessons that will significantly hinder their youngster in the real world. Knowing when, how, and how much to discipline the HFA youngster can be very challenging. Parents may be filled with worry for their youngster and her future. But, they still need to find balance in their role as a parent and disciplinarian. There is a fine line between being an effective parent and being perceived as coddling of the “special needs” youngster.

The youngster’s diagnosis is a label that describes just a small fraction of who that person is. He is many other things. His diagnosis does not exclusively define him. In valuing the youngster’s gifts and talents – along with understanding his diagnosis – parents must be cautious about going to extremes. Of course, they have every reason to be a strong advocate on behalf of their youngster and in protection of his rights. But, this does not exempt the child from being disciplined.

Even children with a “disorder” should be permitted to make long- and short-term mistakes (with support and guidance, however). This is a real challenge for parents who are naturally protective of their youngster. But, it is the only way she will be able to learn and prepare for greater independence in the future. Where possible, parents should look for small opportunities to deliberately allow their youngster to make mistakes for which they can set aside discipline-teaching time. It will be a learning process for both the child and parent. Disciplining the youngster should be a teaching and learning opportunity about making choices and decisions. But, when she makes mistakes, assure her that she is still loved and valued.

Praise and Rewards—

One of the best methods for correcting “bad” behavior is to focus on the child’s acceptable behavior and provide rewards so that he is encouraged to repeat the “good” behavior. To do that, parents must first establish some ground rules. The ground rules must state specifically what is considered acceptable behavior – and what is not. Parents should catch and reward their child when he is well-behaved and following the rules. A reward doesn’t necessarily have to be a physical or expensive reward. It can be genuine praise or a word of encouragement. Most importantly, the reward must be clear and specific. The youngster should be able to know exactly the behavior that earned the reward for (e.g., rather than saying "good job," say "thank you for cleaning up your room").

Inability to Generalize—

Most HFA kids are not able to generalize information. They are usually not able to apply what they learn in one learning context to another. For instance, the child may learn that hitting his friend at school is not acceptable, but he may not necessarily understand that he can’t hit his sister at home. Once the situation changes, it will be a totally a new learning experience for the child. Thus, parents must be consistent and provide many repetitions in disciplining him. A consistent environment and many repetitions will help the youngster to learn and remember the differences between right and wrong.

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

The Difference Between Discipline and Punishment—

Discipline is: 
  • "Time-outs" that are open-ended and governed by the child's readiness to gain self-control
  • Acknowledging or rewarding efforts and good behavior
  • Consistent, firm guidance
  • Directed at the child's behavior, never the child’s personality
  • Giving children positive alternatives
  • Listening and modeling
  • Logical consequences that are directly related to the misbehavior
  • Physically and verbally non-violent
  • Positive, respectful
  • Re-directing and selectively "ignoring" minor misbehavior
  • Reflection and verbal give-and-take communication
  • Teaching children to internalize self-discipline
  • Teaching empathy and healthy remorse by showing it
  • Understanding individual abilities, needs, circumstances and developmental stages
  • Using mistakes as learning opportunities
  • When children follow rules because they are discussed and agreed upon
  • When children must make restitution when their behavior negatively affects someone else

Punishment is: 
  • "Time-outs" that banish a child for a set amount of time governed by the parent
  • Being told only what NOT to do
  • Children are punished for hurting others, rather than shown how to make restitution
  • Consequences that are unrelated and illogical to the misbehavior
  • Constantly reprimanding children for minor infractions causing them to tune-out
  • Controlling, shaming
  • Criticizing the child, rather than the child's behavior
  • Forcing children to comply with illogical rules "just because you said so"
  • Inappropriate to the child’s developmental stage of life
  • Individual circumstances, abilities and needs not taken into consideration
  • Negative and disrespectful of the child
  • Physically and verbally violent or aggressive
  • Reacting to - rather than responding to - misbehavior
  • Sarcastic
  • Teaching children to be controlled by a source outside of themselves
  • Teaching children to behave only when they will get caught doing otherwise
  • When children follow rules because they are threatened or bribed

Discipline is guidance. When we guide children toward positive behavior and learning, we are promoting a healthy attitude. Positive guidance encourages a child to think before he acts. It also promotes self-control. Punishment, on the other hand, is a type of parental-control behavior. Basically there are 3 kinds of punishment: (1) penalizing the child with consequences that do not fit the crime (e.g., "Because you told a lie, you can't have your allowance"); (2) physical (e.g., slapping, spanking, switching, paddling, using a belt or hair brush, etc.); and (3) with words (e.g., shaming, ridiculing, cussing, etc.).

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

Punishment is usually used because it vents the parent’s frustration, it's quick and easy, parents don't know other methods, and it asserts adult power. Punishment does not promote self-discipline. It only stops misbehavior for that moment. Punishment may fulfill a short-term goal, but it actually interferes with the accomplishment of the long-term goals of self-control. The outcomes for children who are punished include ideas such as: 
  • “It is okay to hit people who are smaller than you are.”
  • “It is right to hit those you are closest to.”
  • “Those who love you the most are also those who hit you.”
  • “Violence is okay when other things don't work.”


From the moment parents hear the diagnosis, they know life will be more challenging for their “special needs” youngster than for her siblings. So, when they ask her to do something and it's not done, they may let it go. Or they may fear that what they like her to do, or not do, is impossible for her to achieve. But, if parents feel that their child doesn't deserve discipline, it's like telling her, "I don't believe you have what t takes." And if parents don't believe it, neither will the child.

Behavior management is not about punishing or demoralizing the youngster. Instead, it's a way to lovingly set boundaries and communicate expectations. Discipline is one of the most important ways that moms and dads can show their HFA child that they love and care about him.

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

Modified Disciplinary Techniques for Children on the Autism Spectrum

If your youngster has High-Functioning Autism (HFA), should you discipline him in a different way than you do with your other kids? The answer is YES! But, they still need discipline. HFA is a challenge, not an excuse for misbehavior. Nonetheless, moms and dads will need to be more flexible in their expectations.

Parents must understand up front that HFA impacts their child’s ability to understand instruction, follow through on tasks, and control his impulses. Also, they will need to provide discipline and instruction more often and with more consistency. Your “special needs” child is emotionally much younger than his chronological age. After all, he has a “developmental disorder.” So, lessons may take longer to sink in.

Misbehavior from kids on the autism spectrum is frustrating – and repeated disobedience over an extended time can be infuriating to many moms and dads. Just like with their “typical” kids, most parents will automatically respond to misbehavior by using punishment to stop it. But this isn’t the most effective approach – especially for a youngster with combined autism and ADHD or ODD. Punishment alone never teaches new behavior. It only teaches what NOT to do – it doesn’t teach what TO do.

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

Here are a few tips regarding modified disciplinary techniques for kids on the autism spectrum:

A Different Form of Time-out—

Kids on the spectrum often enjoy playing alone. As a result, a “time-out” in their bedroom is often a reward rather than a punishment. Thus, when issuing a time-out with your HFA child, it’s best to put him in a place without the comforts of the bedroom (e.g., at the dining room table without games, toys, digital devices, etc.).

Keep time-outs unusually short (e.g., 1 minutes for young kids, 3 minutes for preschoolers, and 5 minutes for 6-10 year olds). This is plenty of time IF your child shows quiet feet, quiet hands, and quiet mouth. Long time-outs often start a battle of wills, and the message that the consequence sends gets lost.

Contrast “time-out” with “time-in.” For example, if you put your HFA youngster in time-out for pushing his sister, you should have been praising him earlier for playing appropriately with his sister – and should praise him after time-out for completing the 1-5 minute consequence successfully. If there isn't a big difference between time-out and time-in, the “special needs” youngster doesn't understand the consequence.

If you tell your youngster to go to time-out and she ignores you, then simply add 1 minute to her time-out. If she ignores you again, then add another minute. If she ignores you a third time, DON’T add more additional minutes (if it goes over 5 minutes), and DON’T pick her up and drag her to time-out. This will make things worse, and the attention (which is now negative attention) can unintentionally reinforce the noncompliance. 
The course of action at this point is to simply impose a consequence that “hurts” (e.g., no video games for the rest of the day). Deliver that consequence calmly, and don't talk about it further. Even if your youngster says, “No mom, I'll go into time-out now” …don't give in! Otherwise, she will know that you “cave-in” if she just sounds desperate enough.

A “prompt” (e.g., a timer) to signal the beginning and end of a time-out will help. If your youngster won’t cooperate, remind her that the time-out doesn’t start until she is quietly in her time-out location.

Practice time-outs ahead of time. For example, ask your youngster to pretend that she behaved badly, and that she is being sent to time-out. Have her practice going to time-out without putting up a fight. Then reward with acknowledgement and praise for completing the practice run.
==> Launching Adult Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance

A Different Reward System—

Rewards work well for kids with HFA, but they, too, may need to be tweaked slightly. For instance, one expectation may be to take turns when playing games with siblings. It's probably not realistic to set that expectation for a whole day, because if the HFA child messes up in the morning, he’s lost the entire day. Rather, break the day up into thirds and give points for appropriate behavior in the morning, the afternoon, and the evening. Once your child has earned points, you can’t take them away.

So, if your child plays fairly in the morning, he earns reward points (rewards can include doing something special, or receiving a special treat or privilege). If he plays unfairly in the afternoon, he must leave the game and go somewhere else for a timeout, and he doesn’t receive reward points – BUT he doesn’t lose the morning points he earned. Also, most kids on the spectrum need more frequent rewards. They will lose interest if they have to wait an entire week to earn one.

Avoiding Physical Punishment—

A good ass-whipping may have worked for you as a child – I know it did for me! However, spanking, yelling, or other aversive methods should never be used on an HFA child. These somewhat traditional (or old school) methods may work in the short term, but they don’t prevent problematic behavior in the long run – often resulting in worse problems! This is because one side-effect of the use of physical punishment is counter-aggression. So, if you use this type of punishment on your “special needs” youngster, guess what he is going to do the next time he’s angry with his sister? Counter-aggress!

Physical punishment teaches aggressive behavior; it teaches how to punish back. Also, the HFA youngster may begin to engage in escape or avoidance behavior. For example, if he gets spanked at home for acting-out at school, he may refuse to go to school due to the anxiety he now has about his school-related, acting-out behavior.

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

Taking Advantage of Obsessions—

Almost all kids go through periods of development where they become engrossed in one subject matter or another, but kids with HFA often display obsessive and repetitive characteristics, which can have significant implications for behavior. In many cases, it is appropriate to utilize the obsession or “special interest” to motivate and reward your youngster for good behavior. However, always ensure any reward associated with positive behavior is granted immediately in order to assist the youngster in recognizing the connection between the two.

Concrete Instruction—

The HFA child also does better with very specific instructions. For example, instead of telling her to “clean her room,” be specific. For example, “Be sure to pick all clothes off the floor, and put all books on the bookshelves.” In this way, she clearly understands what to do. Also, this chore should be visually represented on a chore chart somewhere in her bedroom.

Learn How Your Child Thinks—

Kids on the spectrum tend to be very logical in their thinking, focusing more on facts than feelings. If the consequence doesn’t make sense, it will not likely change the unwanted behavior (e.g., making the child do extra chores because he got mad and broke his favorite toy). The discipline must fit the “crime” (e.g., the child breaks his treasured toy, so he must take money from his allowance to purchase a new one). There must be a connection between the misbehavior and the discipline. 
So, before you discipline, be mindful that your youngster's logic will not necessarily reflect your idea of common sense. In addition, look for small opportunities to deliberately allow your youngster to make mistakes for which you can set aside “discipline-teaching” time. This will be a learning process for your youngster – and you!

Picking the Right Battles—

Parents can't change everything at once in their HFA youngster. Instead, they should choose a few big things that they want to work on, and put the other things aside for now. Pick your battles carefully. BUT, when you do pick one, stay with it and be consistent! HFA children thrive on consistency, routine and structure. Use this trait to your advantage.

Replacement Behavior—

Kids on the autism spectrum need a “replacement behavior.” So, rather than saying, “You need to stop that” …say something such as, “I need you to stop _______ (be very specific in describing the misbehavior), and do ________ instead (be very specific in describing the replacement behavior).” For example, “I need you to stop bullying your sister. So, go to your room and find something else to do. Maybe play your video game.” Also, use the phrase “I need…..” as noted above. This is something YOU, the parent, need. Your HFA child doesn’t “need” to stop picking on his sister. He’s perfectly fine with doing it.

Visual Instruction—

Another important consideration for a youngster with HFA is to teach him the skills he needs to succeed BEFORE he has a problem. For instance, all kids need guidance to help them keep up with chores and homework. However, a child on the autism spectrum can't be expected to "just get it" from verbal instruction. Instead, he needs a visual schedule that he can follow. So, devise a visual chore chart, as well as a homework chart (i.e., what is to be done, in what order, and when it is to be completed).

In order to effectively discipline the HFA child, parents will need to comprehend each of the factors above and fully place them in the proper context of any given situation. This knowledge will aid parents in catching problems early and laying a foundation for “prevention,” rather than dealing with problems after they occur and having to jump to “intervention.”

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