I was perusing the internet and a topic popped up that I think is very important to your child’s success. Discpline. I don’t know how anyone would parent a child without it, never mind a child with an autism spectrum disorder. Discipline helps the child order their world. They know for a fact what is expected and what is not alowed. There is no gray area, something that they can’t figure out anyway. Remember these children are very literal. They don’t understand nuance and inference. It is something they can work on, but it is not inherent. So very specific rules are essential to their well being.
So many parents of children with any issue are loathe to discipline their children. They feel sorry for the child and don’t want to upset them. These parents do their children no favors. Do they think that all of a sudden at 30years old the child will miraculously learn how to behave or talk to people? I guess its the old adage you have to be cruel to be kind. I don’t really know. I just know that I have always been harder on my boys than most people are on their neurotypical children. I know these parents and some teachers think I am mean. However, when I told one special education teacher in school to not let my younger one be sassy mouthed, they listened and chastised him, but the other children in the class were horrified and complained to the teacher that she was being mean. Of course, the teacher told them it was my instructions and then reminded them that Jared would not be a little boy all his life and needed to be taught. Well, none of them let him get away with anything ever again. In fact, one child reported him for doing something where he got detention. Feeling guilty the child explained she was telling, because it would benefit him in the long run. Good Kid. Good friend.
Anyway, how to teach your children discipline and its meaning. First off start slow and simple. Teach them to sit at the table. Put a kapkin on their lap. Try to have them eat with a fork or spoon. (it’s hard if they have OT and PT issues, but there might be accommodatiting silverware). I didn’t fight the finger issue until I knew they could hold the utentsil with no problem.
Make sure they understand behavior codes in public. Write it down for them. If they cannot read then create pictures. Put it down on index cards and review it in the car before you go into the supermarket, store, restaurant or any public facility everytime. Of course be sure to know when the child is misbehaving or having sensory overload. either way you probably need to leave the establishment until they calm down. If its an overload you need to let him work through the issue and if its behavior, because he is not getting what he wants, then he gets a time-out. Start by going to take short trips to the store. If it means you go for the big shopping on the weekends or at night when the husband is home from work then that’s when you g. If you are on your own, then get a babysitter or the person who watches your child to stay a little longer some days (No it is not easy). Sometimes it is better to slowly integrate your child into the situation. I can’t tell you the times I have left supermarkets, toy stores and restaurants because they would not behave. No biggie. Guess what- they learned and eventually the problems do lesson and go away. (Just as an aside. Sometimes it helps to have a security toy or "blanket" with them.) Sensory overloads, stimulation issues are something that should be talked about with the doctor, OT, psychotherapist, social worker and any other professional that your child sees. They can have some really good insights into what to do for him, how to handle any particle situation, and also they cannot help him deal with the sensory issues if they do not know about it. They may even have some good ideas on how to parcel out the difference between sensory issue and disciplining issues and also what would be the best way to handle a situation.
Now there is the situation where the child rages. Anyone with an ASD child understands what those are. There are behavioral books on raging and control. It explains how to see a rage starting, sometimes, you can interrupt the boiling point, and then what to do during and immediately after the rage. If the child is inpublic. Get them to a quiet place, even the bathroom, your car or another room. This by the way is not a discipline moment. This is the moment you need to try to figure out what started the episode and figure out how to minimize the effects next time. Like I said earlier, use your professionals. They can offer some really good guidance.
By the way if any nosey person says anything, don’t ignore them (that will only give you an ulcer), open your mouth and tell them your child is autistic and if they don’t have any constructive advice to "Shut their stupid mouths." I am not a shrinking violet. I think that alot of parents are worried about what other people think and how it looks in public. Well, who cares what others think. If they are important in your life then worry about it and explain the situation. If it is a passing stranger and their attitude bothers you say something. If it is gossippy bitchy people on the soccer field, I say let them have it. But don’t be afraid to teach your child when they need to be taught.
A story: when my children were very little and my oldest had just been diagnosed. We had just moved to our town and I took them to the post office. They of course misbehaved and would not listen. I tried to discipline them and an old man yelled at me that I was holding up the line. Noone defended my actions so I then let them misbehave and annoy everyone in the postoffice as I chatted up the clerk and she happiy helped me annoy that old man some more. As I left, I turned to him and told him that I was trying to teach my children right from wrong, and that he was a stupid old man. He of course tried to call my children names (because god knows that is the way to handle a fight with an adult by being mean to their 3 and 5 year old children) and of course I yelled back at him that he was stupid and an abusive person. While he would never admit that he did anything wrong, my children knew I stood up for them and said it made them feel good. We then continued the discipline lesson. By the way, we ran into that old fool the next day in the barbershop (We live in a very small town). He saw us, hid behind his paper and avoided us like the plague.
In conclusion, discipline is very important for these children. Structure and knowing what is expected of them when, where and how and even the why is essential to their learning how to function in the real world. Do not worry about what others think. They are not important your child is. Remember, your child’s aspergers is not about you and how you fit into the world. It is about your child and how they fit in and how well they will function in the future. Start early and start slow.
Until next time,