It's difficult for parents, no matter how sympathetic, to truly understand how different the world is to their autistic child. These differences in perception can turn a pleasant day outing into a nightmare as a normally benign event, such as a flickering light bulb, is seen by your child as an angry bolt of lightning or a friendly Labrador retriever is seen as a vicious killer. Remembering that your child is not deliberately misbehaving is the key to developing a behavioral-management system to give you both peace of mind.
1 Assume that unusual responses make sense to your autistic child, and look for the root cause of the problem. Recognize the unique triggers that set your child off and you'll eventually prevent eruptions from occurring, according to "The Autism Revolution" by Dr. Martha Herbert, as adapted on the Healthguide.org website.
2 Recognize that repetitive behaviors can be a sign that your child has become overstimulated and needs a break to calm down. Note any stimuli, such as music, birds chirping or listening to certain television programs, that soothes him and have at least one of these on hand whenever you leave the house.
3 Maintain a schedule and stick to it. Autistic children do best when their environment is predictable and orderly. Using pictures or words, post your child's schedule in a central location, such as the refrigerator, so you both can refer to it.
4 Be consistent when managing your child's behaviors. Work with your child's therapist to develop strategies that you can employ when he misbehaves. Respond the same way every time, and you'll communicate a message to your autistic child that his behaviors have consequences.
5 Reward positive steps. Praising your child, with words, smiles and rewards, increases the likelihood that good behavior will reoccur, according to developmental psychologist and lead author L. K. Koegel, in a study appearing in "The Journal of Applied Behavioral Analysis." The studies' authors found that autistic children could learn to self-regulate over time, when they were consistently rewarded.
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