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Using Key Words and Phrases to Teach New Behaviors to Kids on the Autism Spectrum

When using words and phrases to teach new behaviors to your child with High-Functioning Autism or Asperger’s, it will be crucial to develop and write them down on a poster board or white board. 
 
These words and phrases will be used when introducing or generalizing new behaviors to your child. By making them visual, you guarantee both greater understanding and usage of them.

Strange phrases or catchy sayings are often attractive and easy to remember, but actually using the words and phrases - not simply writing them down – is what makes them effective. Also, they should be developed by you AND your youngster, which will increase the likelihood that they will be remembered.

The steps to creating a list of key words and phrases:
  1. Choose the area you want to work on with your youngster.
  2. Select (or have your youngster select) a word or phrase to be used as a quick reminder for appropriate responding. 
  3. Teach your child to use the key words and/or phrases as needed. With consistent use, they will convey the concept and what appropriate responding will look like. This will allow your youngster to generalize a skill more easily. When the phrase is used in a new situation, he or she will know what to do, because the phrase corresponds to the new behavior. 
  4. After one key word or phrase has been mastered, add others as needed.

 
Below is a sample list of words and phrases that other parents have found to be effective. It would be daunting to try and teach your child all of these. Thus, simply pick two or three to start with, and then branch out from there over the course of several weeks or months.
  • Use your words (i.e., controlling yourself by using words when you are upset or frustrated, rather than responding with a tantrum or meltdown)
  • This is a choice – or – This is not a choice
  • Thinking with your eyes (i.e., learning to use your eyes to communicate)
  • Thinking with your body (i.e., learning to use your body to communicate)
  • Another way (e.g., used to let the youngster know that you don't like the behavior or tone of voice he/she is using, for example, "Can you try another way of saying that?")
  • The rule (it’s helpful for the youngster to have appropriate responses described as “the rule”; it appeals to his/her sense of seeing the world in black and white; often simply stating that a desired response is "the rule" brings immediate compliance)
  • The preschool way, the elementary school way, etc.
  • That doesn't make sense (i.e., used when the youngster says something that is inappropriate, for example, fantasy talk, mislabeling another's or their own feelings, giving misinformation on a topic, etc.)
  • Tell me what you have to do (e.g., often used after giving directions)
  • Switching – or – substitutions (i.e., key words used to remind the youngster about being flexible)
  • Stretching the topic (i.e., attempting to go off topic by trying to make your new topic – usually a special interest – appear related to the original topic)
  • Stick up for yourself (i.e., refers to the type of response the youngster must make when being teased or taken advantage of by others)
  • Show me (i.e., add the phrase for what you want the youngster to do)
  • School sitting, school walking, etc. (i.e., refers to a specific manner of doing something that has been demonstrated to the youngster previously)
  • Say one thing (i.e., when answering questions or discussing a topic with too much detail – this skill should be practiced)
  • Salvage the rest of the day (i.e., refers to not allowing a problem to ruin the rest of the day)
  • Respond Quickly and Quietly (referred to as Q and Q)
  • Problems and Solutions (i.e., refers to a technique used to either prevent a tantrum or assist the youngster in regaining control during a tantrum; referred to as P and S)
  • Personal space (i.e., not touching others when it is not appropriate)
  • Off the topic (i.e., said to the youngster when his or her response is not on the topic being discussed)
  • MYOB ("mind your own business")
  • Lower – or – raise your volume (i.e., to help the youngster to modulate voice volume; often paired with a hand signal)
  • Look and Listen (referred to as L and L)
  • KISS ("keep it small and simple")
  • Keep your problems small (i.e., used when the youngster's behaviors are just beginning to escalate in a negative way; serves as a reminder to maintain control)
  • Just do it (i.e., refers to times when the youngster must quickly respond in a particular way without question)
  • In your head (i.e., refers to statements that should not be said aloud, usually statements about a person's physical appearance or statements that would hurt another's feelings)
  • Good choice – or – bad choice 
  • Get your control (i.e., key phrase used during a crisis)
  • Eyes up here (i.e., key phrase to help with attending and focusing)
  • Drop the subject (i.e., refers to talking on and on)
  • Don't get stuck (i.e., refers to not allowing a problem to control you or stop you from moving on; this skill is taught)
  • Don't be a "me first" (i.e., used with those kids who have an obsession about always being first in line, when playing a game, being called on, etc.)
  • Dealing with disappointments (i.e., refers to what to do when something doesn't go the way we thought it would)
  • Conversations go back and forth (i.e., used as a reminder when learning how to converse with others)
  • Bumping (i.e., refers to interrupting others when they are speaking)
  • Being okay (i.e., getting yourself together to handle a situation)
  • Being flexible (i.e., used when the child is upset with a routine change)

What moms and dads say is important, but “how” they say it can make the difference between compliance and noncompliance in their child on the autism spectrum. Sometimes a quiet, calm voice is needed. At other times, a firmer tone may be called for.

When you change the tone of your voice, point it out to your youngster. Kids on the spectrum don’t usually use varied tones of voice to convey different meanings. By pointing this out, you communicate your meaning, and you increase your child’s awareness of the importance of paying attention to vocal tone.

Also, this should be done with facial expressions and body language – two other things kids on the spectrum don't use when communicating to - or processing communication from - others. Vary your facial expressions and body language, and explain/show how it helps people to understand what others are saying.

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

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.

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

Informal Quiz for Parents: Does My Child Have High-Functioning Autism?

“We suspect that our 6 y.o. son has autism (the high functioning end of the spectrum). I know you can’t diagnose a child with an autism spectrum disorder via the internet, but is there an informal quiz or test that will give us a hint as to whether or not we should pursue a formal assessment? And where do we go to have him checked?”

Of course, parents will only know for sure if their child has High-Functioning Autism (HFA) by getting a professional diagnosis. Having said that, if you answer “no” to most of the questions below (1 - 21), seeking a formal assessment would be warranted:
  1. Are people important to your child? 
  2. Can your child easily dress him/herself?
  3. Can your child easily tie his/her shoes?
  4. Can your child keep a two-way conversation going?
  5. Can he/she ride a bicycle (even with stabilizers)?
  6. Does your child care about how he/she is perceived by the rest of the group?
  7. Does your child enjoy joking around?
  8. Does he/she enjoy sports?
  9. Does your child find it easy to interact with other children?
  10. Does your child have friends, rather than just acquaintances?
  11. Does he/she join in playing games with others easily?
  12. Does your child make normal eye-contact?
  13. Does your child mostly have the same interests as his/her peers?
  14. Does he/she often come up to you spontaneously for a chat?
  15. Does he/she play imaginatively with other children, and engage in role-play?
  16. Does your child prefer imaginative activities such as play-acting or story-telling, rather than numbers or a list of facts?
  17. Is it important for him/her to fit in with a peer group?
  18. Is your child good at turn-taking in conversation?
  19. Is your child’s reading comprehension appropriate for his/her age?
  20. Was your child speaking by 2 years old?
  21. When your child was about 3 years old, did he/she spend a lot of time pretending (e.g., play-acting being a super-hero, or holding teddy's tea parties?
 __________

If you answer “yes” to most of these questions (1 – 17), seeking a formal assessment is also warranted:
  1. Does your child appear to notice unusual details that others miss?
  2. Does your child try to impose routines on him/herself, or on others, in such a way that causes problems?
  3. Does your child do or say things that are tactless or socially inappropriate?
  4. Does he/she have an interest that takes up so much time that he/she does little else?
  5. Does your child have an unusual memory for details?
  6. Does your child have any unusual and repetitive movements?
  7. Does he/she have difficulty understanding the rules for polite behavior?
  8. Does your child have odd or unusual phrases?
  9. Does your child like to do the same things over and over again, in the same way all the time?
  10. Does your child often turn conversations to his/her favorite subject rather than following what the other person wants to talk about?
  11. Does he/she sometimes lose the listener because the listener gets bored with what your child is talking about?
  12. Does your child sometimes say "you" or "your child" when he/she means to say "I"?
  13. Does your child tend to take things literally?
  14. Has your child ever been diagnosed with a language delay, ADHD, hearing or visual difficulties, or a physical disability?
  15. Have teachers ever expressed any concerns about his/her development?
  16. Is his/her voice unusual (e.g., overly adult, flat, or very monotonous)
  17. Is your child’s social behavior very one-sided and always on his or her terms?

High-Functioning Autism can be hard to diagnose. There are a number of reasons for this: 
  • Kids with HFA are, by definition, of average or above average intelligence.
  • The “high-functioning” child may develop a means to hide, manage, or overcome the symptoms associated with the disorder.
  • He or she may do well in school, communicate effectively, and pass an IQ test with flying colors.
  • The child’s language skills may mask certain symptoms.  
  • Due to the fact that HFA carries with it a lot of strengths, the child’s strong points may carry him or her through early elementary school with only minor behavioral and/or social issues.
  • When told often enough to “make eye contact” or “stop talking about the same things over and over again,” kids on the spectrum are often able to either hide, control, or even overcome the need to present obvious symptoms.  When this occurs, the overt signs of HFA are not present, making a diagnosis difficult.
  • With girls on the autism spectrum, certain behaviors associated with the disorder may simply be considered "feminine" rather than problematic (e.g., shyness, discomfort with public speaking, difficulties with motor coordination, confusion over social communication in situations such as team sports, etc.). Also, girls with HFA behave differently than boys with HFA (e.g., they tend to be less aggressive, more imitative, and more likely to work hard to "fit in").

Your child’s doctor can make a referral to a professional who specializes in autism spectrum disorders. This is the individual who can cut through the haze and come up with a proper course of action.


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

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

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…

How to Prevent Meltdowns in Children on the Spectrum

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...

Parenting Defiant Teens on the Spectrum

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…

Older Teens and Young Adult Children with ASD Still Living At Home

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…

Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

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...

Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and HFA

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...

My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content