Teaching Your Child on the Spectrum to Think before they Act

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.