He doesn’t know that other people hurt when he hit them. He may learn this as he gets older, but it may take some time. So how do parents of autistic children tell them to not hit other people? How can them handle their misbehavior?
Here are a few short but helpful pointers to help you as a parent in disciplining your autistic child.
Discipline is about teaching your child good and appropriate behavior. Discipline is about helping them to become an independent and responsible people. Regardless, your child is autistic or not, you still need to discipline him with the consideration of his special needs.
In particular, you need to keep in mind of his unusual perception of pain. Therefore, hitting him or any physical punishment is big no-no. The hitting will not teach that his behavior is unacceptable.
In contrast, it may encourage them that hitting others is an acceptable behavior. It may even encourage self-injurious behavior. In fact many experts strongly agree to not use physical punishment on autistic children and advise parents to find alternative methods of discipline method.
The best method is through positive discipline, where you focus on his acceptable behavior and provide rewards so that your child would be encouraged to repeat the behavior. To do that, first you need to establish ground rules. The ground rules must states specifically of what is consider as an acceptable behavior and what is not.
You must reward him when he is well-behaved and following the rules. A reward need not necessarily be a physical or expensive. It can be a genuine praise or word of encouragement.
Most importantly, the reward must be clear and specific. Your child should be able to know exactly the behavior that earned the reward. Instead of saying “Good job,” say “Thank you for cleaning up your room.”
Most autistic children are not able to generalize information. They are usually not able to apply what they learn in one learning context to another learning context.
For example, your child may learn that hitting his friend at school is not acceptable, but he may not necessarily understand that he cannot hit his sister at home. That is, once the situation change, it will be a totally a new learning experience for him.
Be consistent and provide many repetitions in disciplining him. If there is punishment, make sure that the punishment is always the same for the bad behavior. Consistent environment and many repetitions will help your autistic child to learn and remember the differences between right and wrong.
The key to discipline your child with autism is teaching him what is appropriate and acceptable. You must provide a consistent environment and many repetition so that he can learn better.
As his understanding improved, you may take some time to review the ground rules together with him. It will help not only raising your child’s awareness over his behavior but also will boost his self-esteem.