For children and students with autism spectrum disorders self-discipline is a skill that most autistic kids have trouble acquiring. This includes not only inappropriate outbursts, but also habits that can be potentially dangerous, such as aggressive behavior towards others, causing harm to themselves, and other hurtful practices such as banging one’s head off the walls.
To prevent these and similar actions, one technique parents and teachers can implement to control autistic tendencies is to teach the child self-management. Giving a child power over themselves is often the key to keeping control over violent situations and may be a positive and appropriate step towards learning other helpful behaviors as well.
Designing and implementing self-management strategies works because the child is no longer fully controlled by others. By teaching self-management during specific times of day, such as while the child is at school or in therapy sessions, the child is more likely to continue practicing self-control at other times of the day as well.
The key is to implement a program in which children monitor their own behavior and activities. Begin with short periods of time. Then, continue to monitor the child from a more passive standpoint. Every ten to fifteen minutes remind the child he or she is in control; that the child needs to monitor himself and should be aware of each episode of good and bad behavior.
This monitoring is a form of self-evaluation. When the child is in control, he or she may think more closely about how he has behaved in the past and the present. Set clear goals with the child. For example, an afternoon with no aggression towards others or a day at school with no self-injury should be recognized.
Every fifteen minutes you should ask the child how he or she is doing. Are the goals being met? If the answer is no, perhaps the child is not ready for self-management. Perhaps the goals are too unattainable. When first setting goals you’ll want to make sure they are easy to reach. Then gradually move the child toward more difficult goals in the future. Once the child is successful at self-monitoring, he or she will have a more positive attitude towards the experience.
Of course, a very effective and important part of the self-management technique is a system of rewards. Within reason, have the child suggest his or her own reward, depending on their own interests. Reinforcement will make these good behavior goals more clearly marked in the child’s mind, and by choosing and rewarding himself or herself, the child will feel increasingly in control of the self-management system.
Choose simple rewards to start, such as a new smiley face for every goal met and sad faces for those goals not met. Continue working towards higher goals such as a special activity or new toy when a certain number of smiley faces have been attained.
These types of programs do not develop overnight so it’s important that both you and the child have enough time to devote to a self-management regimen. By reinforcing good behavior with rewards, as determined by the child instead of by an adult, the child will be more likely to carry this on even when not participating in the program. If your autistic child is mature enough, this could be a good treatment program to try.
<a href=”https://www.autismspeaks.org/blog”>Autism Speaks, a very helpful blog</a>