Inevitably difficult situations arise and many times the answer to making good choices is to take a minute to think before we act. We have provided some strategies and tools for helping your child, who has been diagnosed wit autism to make better decisions:
1. Take a Break– Taking a break from any given situation allows your child with autism to gather their thoughts before speaking or acting. It is important to teach your child to take time to think about a response. This “time to think” can be as short as counting to ten to calm themselves or removing themselves from the area for a few minutes to gather their emotions and take a few deep breaths.
2. Think before you act- Sometimes children who have been diagnosed with autism misunderstand jokes, comments, or actions and take words more personally than others. They can be more sensitive to different situations, conversations and outcomes. Teach your child on the spectrum to ask themselves questions such as: Was the comment/action directed at me? Could it have been a joke? Is this person having a bad day? Etc. Teach your child to also read other people’s expressions and body language so they can tell when someone is looking out for their well being, making a joke, or truly saying something hurtful.
3. Response to Difficult Situation – If your child’s automatic response to difficult situations is to act out physically, create a safe and appropriate for them to lash out without hurting anyone or themselves Have pillows, stress balls, their favorite stuffed toy etc available to them to comfort them and redirect their energy. If they need to take a break, teach them the appropriate ways to ask for one.
4. Have a Phrase – Teach your child on the spectrum to excuse themselves or respond to difficult situations with a set line that allows them to address the situation while remaining calm. A simple, ‘Excuse me,’ or ‘That wasn’t very nice’ are polite responses that allow the child to take a break, think about things, and determine an appropriate response to the situation arise.
5. Role Play – Practice your phrase in different situations in order to teach your child when it is appropriate to say what phrase. Use examples of situations that may happen or already have happened. Practicing difficult situations when children are calm provides the opportunity to discuss options and consequences.
A child’s immediate reaction to criticism or unkind words and actions can be inappropriate. Now you have the tools you need to teach your child on the spectrum to respond to difficult situations with appropriate words and behaviors.
It’s often easier to do something for a child on the spectrum than to have them do it for themselves, but learning responsibility is an important step on the way to independence and it is important for a child that has been diagnosed with autism to learn how to do things for themselves in order to build confidence, adapt to their environment, and engage properly with their peers.
Here are some ways to help your child on the spectrum learn the importance of responsibility.
- Use pictures or drawings of items and tape them in specific locations around the house to remind children where things belong.
- Provide easy way for your child on the spectrum to organize their belongings. A storage bin, or mat for their shoes, and a toothbrush holder, soap holder and cup in their bathroom so they know here to place their personal hygiene items. All areas should be accessible when the child is standing on the floor or on a step stool so they can be responsible for putting their own items away.
- Make sure your child, who has been diagnosed with autism, has a way of organizing their work space. Create an outline of the location where each object belongs on their desk Let your child on the spectrum know where to find and return their notebooks, pencils, crayons, and other school materials. Clearly defining areas is important for kids to independently locate and return writing and working materials.
- Make sure your child with autism has an easy and effective way of organizing their school materials, such as their book bag. Give children the resources they need to organize their papers, pencils, and other school supplies. Folders are a way to keep papers sorted by subject. Be sure to use folders with pockets that are secure and provide enough space for necessary pages. Label notebooks and use different color books for different subjects. Make a weekly routine to review your child’s folders with them and eliminate unnecessary papers and start off a new week prepared and organized.
- Teach your child easy ways to keep their room clean and put away their clothes. Make sure they understand that dirty clothes go into a laundry bin, teach your child on the spectrum how to hang and fold their clothes. Try to make their shelves and closets accessible to them. If they are too small to reach these items, or you fear they are not capable of such a task, work them to place all clothes that need to be hung up neatly in one pile and fold the clothes that need to go into their dresser in another pile and then you can put the items away for them, until they are old enough, tall enough, or responsible enough to do it on they own.
As adults, we use strategies to organize our lives, providing children with similar strategies helps organize their environments and promotes independence. Although we try and help our children who have been diagnosed with autism organize by reminding them to put their things away, many children often need examples and support to succeed at organizing their lives.
Developing the critical social skills necessary for children to work and play well together is an important challenge for all children and can be a difficult task for children who have been diagnosed with autism. Here are some ways to make learning social skills less of a challenge for your child on the spectrum.
- Following Rules and Directions: All games offer opportunities for learning to understand and follow rules and directions. There will be consequences for not listening to and following the rules, such as disqualification, losing the game, not to mention making your peers angry because of the delay they face when someone doesn’t know how to play the game properly. It is always a good idea to teach your child on the spectrum the importance of following rules and directions and playing games is a fun way to to them the benefits of knowing the rules.
- Patience: Games involve waiting and turn taking which can be very difficult for children who have been diagnosed with autism. Be sure to take your turn and include other participants in the game in turn taking when playing games. Point out the importance of patience. Most activities require practice to develop skills which can be frustrating for children on the spectrum. Teach them the importance of practicing. These skills will not only serve your child in their current situation, but also later in life.
- Academics: Games are a fun way to encourage children on the spectrum to learn new words, to read, and to count. If your child on the spectrum is verbal you can either read them the rules and talk about them or have them read the rules to any game aloud. You can also incorporate counting into most games…count aloud the steps you take when playing a board game, count aloud the number of times a ball is thrown back in forth when playing catch…etc.
- Problem Solving: Building blocks, board games, and sports all involve a level of problem solving. Give children on the spectrum an opportunity to try things on their own first, then provide assistance as needed. If a child is struggling in an area, problem-solve ways to improve their skills.
- Conflict Resolution: Interpretation of rules, calls on plays, and opportunities for taking turns can all result in conflict. When children on the spectrum disagree during a game, practice skills for managing conflict. Teach your child with autism to take a deep breath, explain their understanding of the situation, listen to others, and then determine a way to resolve the conflict.
Whether building a tower, playing a board game, or participating in organized sports, children who have been diagnosed with autism can learn a variety of skills through play.