Let’s face it, it’s difficult to deal with some children with autism spectrum disorders, so that’s why we need to have solutions ready at our fingertips.
1. USE ROUTINES, NOT LIP SERVICE
Set up a crystal clear, daily structure before the day begins and decrease power struggles… Think structure, structure, structure. Why get caught in crisis at the last minute for yourself and all concerned. People, especially in the autism spectrum need routine and structure. Be pro-active and structure minded even if you’re not. Learn to cut down on directing with words as you begin to chose words with careful thought and consideration and sparingly. A little goes a long way.
2. CHANGE ENVIRONMENT RATHER THAN THE CHILD
Look around you. If you actually make physical, concrete changes in your household, school, or community setting and change what needs to be changed such as location of furniture, colour, lighting, clothing, chaos etc. People in the autism spectrum are especially sensitive to sensory conditions such as sound, lighting, physical touch and so on. This way the environment rather than you dictate the rules and your child can enjoy independence this way!
3. FOLLOW THROUGH WITH FOLLOW UP… FOLLOW UP… FOLLOW UP
Use your routines and rules you set in motion and then make sure they are doing what they are supposed to. By doing so, you are not the bad guy and they will have to deal with the natural consequences of their actions. With those in the autism spectrum, they respond well to follow-up as they think in concrete terms rather than abstract ones. This can be your salvation and teaches the kids what will happen in the real world. Natural consequences can be difficult for them to comprehend therefore responses and behaviour may get worse before it gets better but hang in there.
4. GROUND YOURSELF, NOT THE KIDS WITH GROUND RULES
Keep your credibility and your word with your kids. Though it’s hard at times, stick-to-it-ive-ness is your key to long term success. Kids in the spectrum disorder can actually enjoy grounding and time-outs due to their egocentric nature so be careful. Use masterful logic and reason and don’t let them break you down or it will break you up!
5. NEGOTIATION ISN’T JUST FOR ADULTS
When creating rules for your kids, do so with them, not just for them whenever possible. This way they will buy into the process and will be more likely to cooperate. The rules are great for kids with autism as it helps them stay anchored. They will also surprise you many times with their comprehension of what is actually going on. Even if they are non-verbal, this does not mean they are not understanding or communicating so get the buy in.
6. GIVE KIDS THE “HEAD OF THE TABLE”
Let them be in charge of their responsibilities though its tempting to try and avoid taking over the responsibility. In the short term it may seem easier but that’s only if you want to continue doing this for them, in the case of parenting, when they are over! They can be rather convincing, none-the-less, hang in there. You can balance your decision to give the responsibility back by maintaining a supportive and caring attitude rather than being the bad guy!
7. BREAK TASKS INTO SMALL CHUNKS
If you overwhelm them it’s no wonder they fight back. By breaking down the tasks into do-able tasks you are ensuring their feeling of success and even raising their own self-esteem. The more they have mastery over their environment the better they will feel about themselves. This should begin as small as need be with small decisions, small responsibilities etc and work up to larger ones. When deciding on the type of task to complete, try to use the seemingly insignificant activities that fill each child’s day.
When working with people in this spectrum, life skills are very important to integrate at an early age. Social stories and visual cues can be quite helpful as a reminder. You can place pictures and/or text on a place they normally see so they can easily access this. Its good to put words next to pictures so they can learn to associate the meaning.