Autism is a common condition whereby individuals struggle with social interaction and communication, caused by patterns of thought which can be repetitive and restrictive.
Life as a parent of a child with autism can be extremely difficult, and it can be very hard to know the right way to go about disciplining them that won’t cause them to react in a negative way.
Well this article will tell you some useful little tips and great methods you can use to discipline your toddler if they have autism.
#1 Use Positive Discipline
When disciplining a child, you can either do it in a way that is positive or negative. Many parents choose to discipline in a negative way, by scolding them for doing something wrong. There is nothing wrong with this and it is a very effective method. However, toddlers with autism respond much better to positive discipline.
Due to the fact they struggle in social situations, a child with autism is more likely to panic and lash out at negative interactions. Therefore, it is a much better option to try and discipline your autistic toddler by praising or rewarding them when they behave well, and then not giving them that praise and attention when they misbehave.
#2 Remove Them from Situations
If you are in a social situation and your toddler starts to misbehave, then the best thing to do for a child with autism is to remove them from the situation and use methods to calm them down (there are loads of calming methods online you can find that are great for this). They are more likely to respond well and to relax when separate from other people, and when just with you, their parent(s), who they are familiar and comfortable with.
#3 Ensure you are Meeting their needs
All children have basic needs such as eating, drinking, sleeping etc. A child with autism also has some extra needs, including needing regular sensory input. However, an autistic child finds it a lot harder to communicate what they need than it does for a child without autism to.
Therefore, it is vital that before you start scolding or negatively disciplining your toddler (which could escalate and make the situation worse if they respond badly), that you do a mental checklist for yourself to make sure you have met all their essential needs in the last few hours.
It might just be that they are very hungry or very tired, which means the situation can be easily sorted and you can therefore prevent having to be negative towards your toddler.
#4 Be Consistent
One of the most important things to do in any method of discipline that you implement on your autistic child is to be consistent. Children with autism don’t deal well with new, unfamiliar situations and deal best with routine and structure.
Therefore, if you choose a method such as a reward scheme, keep up with this and put effort into really building it into their everyday life and routine. If they know they will get a certain sticker every morning if they brush their teeth when asked, then it will make them more likely to do it, as they will become used to it, and straying from it would unsettle them.
Furthermore, if you make sure you try to keep their general daily routine very consistent, not just for discipline matters, then this will help to prevent them from misbehaving. It is going off structure that is more likely to make them have a meltdown or behave negatively. Therefore, it is a good idea to create a nice plan and daily schedule for them, as this will help promote positive behaviour.
#5 Visual Guides are Key
A child with autism responds best to visual aids. Therefore, it’s so important that whatever you do to try and discipline your child, or when you are trying to give them instructions, that you use something that is visually stimulating.
0For example, if you need them to complete a task then you should set a little egg timer, so they can physically see how long they have to do the activity, and so will make them more likely to complete it.
If you want to implement a reward scheme for your child as a way of praising them when they behave well and letting them know when they have misbehaved, then using something they can see will be more effective. So, a nice colourful star chart put somewhere they can easily see is a great choice.
#6 Practice Calming Techniques with Them
A child with autism can get very unsettled and have the tendency to have very severe meltdowns. Therefore, it is extremely important that you do some research and familiarise yourself with techniques that can be used to help calm your child.
If you practice these yourself, and then with your child, it means that when they have a meltdown or misbehave, you can help them and encourage them to use those self-calming techniques.
Some good calming methods are to get them to close their eyes and simultaneously breathe deeply and slowly in through their nose, then out through their mouth. Trying to encourage them to picture something that makes them happy is also a great tool to use because, as mentioned before, visualisation is the best way to engage a child with autism. If you know what your toddler loves and what makes them laugh, then you can prompt them and help them to picture the things that make them happy.
There you have 6 key methods and tips for disciplining a toddler with autism. They might seem like very simple tips, but they are so effective. It is all about maintaining a positive attitude and learning what situations your toddler deals well in and what ones they don’t.
It will be hard at times, but those difficult times are so worth it for all the wonderful and happy memories you and your child will make together. Discipline is something every parent has to do, and it is never a nice thing to implement, but it will help your child immensely.