AT HOME WITH
Every house has its own rules. At some homes you have to take your shoes off at the front door, eat at the table and go to bed by 9 p.m. while at other homes you may be able to leave your muddy boots on, eat pizza on the couch while watching basketball and stay up till 11 p.m. Every set of house rules is different, just as every child impacted by autism is different. However, there are certain guidelines that may be useful for you when you are working with an individual impacted by an autism spectrum disorder. I’ve listed a few below:
- Keep a consistent schedule and let your child know of upcoming transitions or changes in his/her routine. Visual schedules are even better!
- Reward positive behavior as frequently as possible (up to 10 times per hour) with positive social attention. Tell them exactly what you like to see him/her doing. Provide minimal attention to the undesirable behavior, keeping his/her and others’ safety in mind. Like many parents, it is easier to recognize when our children are doing something wrong and assume they know that we like it when they are behaving, but this is not always the case. Reverse the amount of attention provided for good and bad behavior, and you should see positive results.
- It may be helpful to refrain from arguing with your child. He/she will likely develop a set of logic as to why he/she should or shouldn’t do something. Set firm boundaries and provide appropriate choices rather than giving him/her options of yes or no. For instance, do you want to take a shower now or after dinner, rather than: do you want to take a shower?
- It is often helpful to review rules prior to each new environment. This may seem redundant, but it will be of vital importance to your child’s development. While many teenagers and adults are able to generalize rules from one environment to the next (i.e. from the grocery store to the convenience store), it is likely that it is much more difficult for your child. Rules for the car ride, rules for the grocery store, rules for the restaurant, etc. should be discussed prior to entering the environment. Keep the rules positive (i.e. instead of saying “no yelling,” you could say “use your inside voice.”) It may be helpful to review the consequences prior to entering the environment, as well. For instance, if your child starts to yell while eating at a restaurant, the trip ends promptly, and he will return home where he will not have access to his preferred activity for X amount of time (typically an hour or so).
- Preventing a child from escaping undesirable behavior is important. Make sure if an undesirable behavior occurs after he/she has been asked to do something, that he/she does not escape the task originally presented to him/her. If your child was asked to fold laundry, and he/she throws a tantrum and ultimately does not have to fold laundry because the tantrum lasts for hours, he/she has gotten out of the task. Let the tantrum occur and once he/she is calm redirect him/her back to the task.
- If your child destroys property, he/she should be responsible for restoring the environment. Giving up allowance money, picking up thrown items and repairing and painting a hole in the wall are all examples of restitution.
- Obtain a functional behavior analysis from a professional team to assess for the function of behavior and adequate behavior intervention strategies to implement at home and school. Our ABA team is a fantastic resource at Heartspring!
- Obtain an educational consultant. Request an IEP or 504 plan at school so that his/her needs are adequately met within the education program attended by your child.
- Get your child involved in social skills programs, such as CARE clubs. Teach your child appropriate social skills by modeling these in the community. Encourage play with other children, but do not force it to occur.
- You may qualify for Medicaid or additional case management for your child. Our Sedgwick Co. CDDO is a wonderful resource. Many families receive in-home supportive care and assistance to help implement new strategies and relieve some stress within the family!
When implementing these house rules, remember you are not going to change the child, but your responses to your child. Too often, parents think that it is their children who are going to need to do the changing, but, in all reality, it is the parents who need to learn new coping skills and tools for working with their children.