How To Deal With Autistic Children: The Do’s & Don’ts

Learn how to deal with autistic children, calm them down, and what to do and not do.

steven zauderer
Steven Zauderer
August 1st, 2022

How To Deal With An Autistic Child

While taking care of or providing assistance to children that have autism, parents, teachers, and guardians can experience frustration from having to tend to their behavior.

Such behavior can be sudden or last for many hours. It might also be difficult for anyone to control and cause embarrassment, especially when out in public.

how to deal with an autistic child

Still, some autistic kids like talking with family members, friends, or other people that they see outside.

This is more likely to occur when someone brings up or shows images of something they’re passionate about.

It can also happen that they talk for too long, to the point of becoming annoying to other people around them, parents included.

The information shown below details how people, parents, in particular, can better deal with the unwanted behaviors related to kids with autism.

This can be aggressiveness, self-harm, annoying reactions like tantrums, or even talkativeness. Preparation is key since kids with ASD can be overwhelming to deal with.

But knowing what to do and exercises that can be conducted will greatly assist in reducing frustration.

So, keep reading to learn the best strategies for calming down and disciplining an autistic child.

Calming Them Down

Autistic kids are very susceptible to meltdowns. Nevertheless, managing them will only last for so long until a spell occurs that makes the parents feel overwhelmed.

Teachers and others that don’t have constant access to the child also have problems with this. Everyone’s threshold for patience is limited, but how aggressive and unwanted behavior is handled can make dealing with it a lot easier.

calming an autistic child

After a while, tantrums in autistic kids may become a common occurrence as well, a repetition that doesn’t stop any matter where they are.

It can be a scary experience, both for the child and the parents, teachers, or anyone else that’s around during the time that it occurs.

Parents should be sure that the environment of an autistic child is safe, and that those around them, including siblings, are safe as well.

Struggling with aggression can take a toll on parents but can be understood more when efforts are made to find out what’s invoking strong reactions from kids with ASD. When these are spotted, management becomes a lot easier.

Such aggressive behavior can be targeted at anyone, but peers are common.

They’re the most likely people to disrupt their routine or challenge repetitive things that occur.

Aggressiveness is also common among caregivers of the child since they often attempt to shift their activities. Therapists might also have this problem in kids with severe symptoms.

Much of the aggressiveness are autistic kids acting out on their impulses.

They’re not planned out before they occur. Their reactions happen without thought, spur the moment incidents with no intention on their part.

However, some autistic children do display aggressive reactions for them to get their way. An outburst may cause parents or caregivers to give in to the behavior that they find comforting, repetitive things that occupy their time.

This can be harmful in the long run, since they may resort to a raised level of aggression when the activity or behavior is suddenly cut off. Head banging is a common reaction.

Parents should keep themselves calm, even when they’re annoyed.

Then observing parents reacting negatively their behavior could be interpreted as normal since it can appear identical to how they behave.

Self-management in stressful scenarios around a child with autism might be the most important step in getting them to understand why their reactions aren’t okay.

Here’s more of what parents can try to deal with meltdowns:

  • Have a well-executed plan – For kids that get overwhelmed very easily, a plan should be put into place so they know what to do when the feelings of anxiety hit them.
  • Some of these can be easy to carry out, or even gamified. For instance, if a child is feeling their anxiety rising, they can inform the parent, let them know what’s going on, and count up or down to a specified number.
  • Counting to ten is best for kids that aren’t advanced enough to go higher, though this can be used to help educate them about numbers while relieving stress all at once.
  • Use toys that interact with their senses – These are also called sensory toys. They are usually easy to find in most places that sell toys for children.
  • Balls or other figures that are plush, soft, and squeeze are good for this. Clay is recommended as well, though not so much for people with carpeted floors in their homes. fidget spinners can help them cope with anxiety, too.
  • Buy an outdoor or indoor trampoline – Useful for self-regulation, trampolines are also great for bonding and letting them alleviate stress when they have overwhelming feelings.
  • They can help with their sensory intake and aid in self-regulation. Indoor trampolines are usually found in toy stores, with outdoor models sold in big box retailers or online.
  • Have them put on a blanket or vest – It can’t be any vest, either. Use one that has a bit of weight to it but it isn’t too big or small to wear.
  • Heaviness can give kids with autism a relaxed feeling that helps them cope in environments where they’re most likely to feel a sensory overload, such as during school hours.
  • Other places where people gather are great for a weighted blanket or clothing items, just as long as it’s not too hot out.
  • Purchase chewable pencil and pen tops – Having something that an autistic child can chew on might be all that’s needed for them to feel relaxed and behave normally.
  • However, parents should only do this with kids that are disciplined enough to not begin chewing on all writing instruments as a consequence of giving them chewable alternatives.
  • Research other medication alternatives – This should be taken as giving a child medication that isn’t advised by a doctor, or healthcare professional, or that isn’t approved by the FDA. But things like meditation can work well when they show an interest in such things.
  • Children may open up to meditation techniques if they see people close to them practicing them.
  • Meditation is very beneficial in teaching them how to be mindful, and utilizing different breathing tricks to aid in relaxation. This can be worked into a game, where they can practice meditation when they feel stressed or agitated.
  • Consider getting a pet – It’s okay to get a pet, but parents must teach their children how to interact with the animal and avoid doing anything that could harm them.
  • Dogs and cats have been shown to relax kids with autism, one reason why some parents opt for animal therapy on top of their child’s normal ABA sessions.

Getting Them To Listen

getting autistic children to listen

Teaching an autistic child how to listen better isn’t something that happens quickly. There are no firmly held rules of this, but some families have experienced good results by utilizing taking heed to the following advice:

1. Learning how to be patient

Kids with ASD usually learn at a different pace than other children their age do. This includes the processing of new information as it comes to them.

Parents should do everything to ensure that they’re not speeding along too quickly by trying to have them take in new things at too great a pace.

Pausing can help give them time enough to understand, comprehend, and react to the things they say.

Children that don’t have any disorders might also exhibit this problem. It’s not only an issue for people with ASD.

Knowing that they have parents, teachers, and friends to help that are patient with them can do wonders for their mental health and confidence in learning and trying out new ideas to avoid meltdowns.

Read More: ABA Therapy Techniques

2. Keep a positive attitude

Autistic kids respond well when there is lots of positive reinforcement made by the people they interact with.

Parents should keep a generous tone in actions and language in their company, even when they show an onset of anxiety and stress.

3. Communicate with them through physical activities

Short attention spans are a well-known ASD symptom. It can make communicating difficult for them since they’re prone to get sidetracked easily.

But some children can learn to understand better when efforts are made to talk with them when they’re busy with playtime.

Physical activity in this situation can be done indoors or outdoors. While inside, they should be made to play in an area that’s safe for them to move around without damaging anything or getting themselves hurt.

4. Show affection

Positive reinforcement can be in the form of affection as well, especially when it comes from a child’s parent, their pet, friends, and other family members.

Affection might be required more than the average child, so positive behavior from them should be met with a hug or pat on the back whenever they display good behavior at school, out in public, or at home.

Furthermore, it’s fine to give them a bit of their own space if they have moods where affection doesn’t help.

5. Let them know that you’re interested in them

Autistic children normally have issues with expressing themselves with others.

To let them know that they aren’t alone in their feelings, parents should constantly show them that they’re in their thoughts and are important, either through communication or non-verbal means.

6. Learn with them

Parents can learn much about kids with autism, even by using the principles concerning how it’s treated to help cope with struggles on their own.

Their special needs can be thought-provoking, revealing to people ways and methods of interacting with other people and solving problems by staying calm and being willing to communicate.

7. Joining or organizing a support gathering

Support groups are strongly recommended for children with autism. It can help parents not feel so alone, and allow networking with other people in their local area to find out more information about good therapy centers.

How To Discipline Autistic Children

Let them know that there are consequences and rewards for the actions they do.

This is one of the tenets of ABA therapy, so a therapist from a center can help parents understand better disciplinary methods and learn when to engage in positive reinforcement.

Children should be navigated towards the path that gives them the positive reinforcement they enjoy so much from behaving well.

When bad behavior is done, they should understand the consequences of what isn’t given to them, such as fewer rewards.

How To Avoid Losing Patience With An Autistic Child

Parents can seek counseling for themselves if they find themselves feeling upset or impatient over the behavior of their autistic child.

But most importantly, they should remain positive through any circumstance.

They can motivate their child by letting the reward for good behavior stay in their thoughts.

Praise should be given when to act well, from everyone they know. This shows them the difference between appropriate and inappropriate behavior.

Communication is the source for parents to avoid losing patience.

If this doesn’t work, parents can try finding other issues that might be causing them to feel impatient or annoyed by their child, such as their health-related problems or incidents that happen at work that lead to stress at home.

What Not To Do With An Autistic Child

Here’s what shouldn’t be done to deal with autistic children:

  • Feeding into their behavior – Kids of the spectrum might engage with caretakers or parents by making annoying sounds or moving in ways they think would get their attention.
  • It might escalate into poor behavior if they see that it gets them what they want. By ignoring it, the child is on the path to understanding why it shouldn’t be done since there wouldn’t be a worthwhile response or reaction to the behavior.
  • Assuming they can’t communicate – All kids with ASD can communicate, though some might find it easier to do in written form or other means outside of talking
  • Don’t force them to make eye contact – Autistic kids sometimes have problems making eye contact. They can be taught to look at the forehead, but it’s a slow process that shouldn’t be forced.

References

  1. Urmc.rochester.edu
  2. Webmd.com
  3. Helpguide.org
  4. Tpathways.org
  5. Verywellhealth.com
  6. Educationandbehavior.com
steven zauderer

CEO of CrossRiverTherapy - a national ABA therapy company based in the USA.

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