Raising Autistic Children

Autistic Behaviors in Teens

Social Ability

Social ineptness will occur in various degrees for teens suffering from autism. Examples include an inability to interpret social cues such as body language, facial expression or tone of voice; difficulty understanding the perspective of others; inability to make friends; inability to communicate in a normal fashion when it comes to "give and take" situations, or difficulty in verbal interactions and understanding language.

Routine

Teens exhibit autistic tendencies during the day when their routine is interrupted. Structure and routine keep an autistic teen on track. A disruption in this routine may cause irritability, anger and depression. The routine begins once they get up in the morning and concludes when they go to bed at night. They enact rituals or display preoccupation with such things as putting the toothpaste in the same location every day and having their clothes hung in the closet in a specific order.

Environment

Normal environmental factors may cause unusual responses from a teen with autistic tendencies. Sensory stimulation such as sounds, smells, textures and lights may cause the teen to act irrationally compared to a normal functioning teen. An example of an environmental distraction is a fire or tornado drill during the school day. This may cause the autistic teen to have a reaction ranging from fear to aggression toward others.

Emotions

Emotions, such as crying, laughing, verbal outbursts, self-injury and possible aggressive behaviors, are difficult for an autistic teen to regulate. These emotions may be more difficult to handle when environmental issues are infused into the situation.

Obsessions and Compulsions

It is common for autistic teens to have an obsession or compulsion with repetitive behaviors such as head banging, tip toeing, hand movements or arm movements. Other areas of obsessions and compulsions include specific topic areas or persistent preoccupation with such things as numbers, facts or a certain object or activity. It is extremely difficult to change the direction of a conversation or behavior when an autistic teen is focused on a specific topic.

Positive Strategies for Disciplining Children With Autism

Behaving in an Inclusive Classroom

According to AutismFieldWork.com, autistic children have a "tendency toward self-centeredness." That is, they often have a hard time understanding and valuing others' needs. This can be difficult in a classroom, where certain behaviors, such as waiting patiently to be called on, are expected. In a "regular" classroom, one that has children of varied abilities, the challenge for an autistic child is to learn to fit in with the other students. His goal is to learn appropriate social responses that come naturally to the other students. Parents and teachers can help with this process.

Contract for Behavior

If the student struggles with maintaining appropriate behavior in a regular classroom, she can work with a behavior goal contract. Such a contract would outline certain actions and responses that she struggles to control in everyday life. She might need to work on how she reacts to other children or how to respond when she doesn't get her way. The rules of the contract need to be clearly stated in a literal way and understood by the child.

Reward System

Once the child begins to follow the contract, he needs a solid reward system for motivation. Autistic children are often not encouraged by an extrinsic value system, like wanting to please someone else. They respond better to concrete rewards, such as getting time to do an activity they enjoy. Parents and teachers can work together to design rewards that are specifically motivating for the particular child.

Developmental Age

When creating a behavior plan for an autistic child, teachers and parents need to keep in mind the child's developmental age, rather than their educational age. An autistic child may be in a third grade classroom, but may be at a lower development level. Expectations need to be appropriately tailored to the child's abilities. Consistency is key with any discipline plan, and autistic children respond best when they can easily predict consequences to their actions. With practice and solid reinforcement, children with autism can learn what is expected of them in everyday situations.

Raising Autistic Children as a Single Mother

Guilt

Guilt is a common feeling among single mothers of autistic children. They often blame themselves for the child’s condition, failed relationships or their current financial status. However, this guilty feeling demoralizes you and may affect your children negatively. Autism can happen to anyone and you cannot control people’s reaction to autism in your children. It is important that you accept the condition and work to ensure that all your children have a loving home environment. Associate yourself with people who appreciate and accept you and your children.

Socializing

Single mothers often find it difficult to attend social events as they spend most of their time taking caring of and providing for their autistic children. Attending events such as family gatherings, parties and all-adult events is a challenge. However, it is important that your friends and family understand that your child is your priority. Take advantage of the Internet and catch up with friends and family through Skype. Additionally, invite your friends and family to your house to reduce the hustle associated with traveling with an autistic child.

Resources

Autistic children require regular medical and specialized care, which causes financial strain on a single-parent family. You may feel guilty, as you have to sacrifice time to provide for the entire family. Additionally, you may not be able to provide fully for the family as the autistic child uses up most of the money. Enlist the help of relatives and older children in the family to save on babysitting and day care costs. Alternatively, look for jobs that allow you to work from home so you are able to spend time with the kids and offer personalized care to the autistic child.

Support Groups

Parenting as a single mother is a tedious job. Raising autistic children puts extra pressure on a single mother and you may feel lonely and sad. Support groups give you an opportunity to share with other mothers and interact with people who understand the challenges you face. Support groups also give you information about new treatment methods, seminars for parents, discounted services that can benefit your children and many more. In support groups, mothers encourage each other, which helps them become stronger and better caregivers.

Programs for Families With Autistic Kids in Florida

Florida Autism Center of Excellence

The Florida Autism Center of Excellence in Tampa offers educational programs for children and young adults with autism spectrum disorder. FACE also collaborates with the public school district to bring new choices to families of autistic children. The academic program at the school focuses on appropriate paths of learning based on each child's individual needs and level of function. Through research-based strategies, autistic students gain social, intellectual and behavioral skills that enable them to become more independent.

Florida Autism Center

The Florida Autism Center provides a variety of programs for families of autistic children at its locations in Tallahassee, Daytona Beach and Sanford. Its signature program, the early intervention program, helps children catch up to their peers before attending kindergarten. For children who have started school but need a little extra support during the after-school hours, the center provides a one-on-one program. The Florida Autism Center also operates a small private school for students in greater need of behavioral training, self-care, daily-living skills and social skills. During the summer months, the center offers half- and full-day programs where children work on group social skills.

Academy for Autism

The Academy for Autism in Orlando provides alternative education for low- and middle-income families of children with special needs. With an on-site therapy clinic, students are able to receive therapy during their school day. Using a variety of curricula, they work toward students reaching their full academic potential by first addressing behavioral issues and gradually focusing more on the academics. Students are taught in a natural setting so that they are able to successfully transfer what they learn at their school environment to their home environment.

Atlantis Academy

Atlantis Academy has locations in Coral Springs, Miami and Palm Beach. The school emphasizes the importance of close relationships of parents, teachers and students by providing a low teacher-student ratio and a nurturing staff. The curriculum, academic expectations and social programs are highly individualized, allowing students to develop self-confidence as they learn and grow. The school also offers a variety of summer camp programs for children from kindergarten through 12th grade, including a summer fun camp, academic camp and credit recovery.

How to Find Autism-Friendly Activities for Your Kids

Consider topics, places and materials that would intrigue your child, taking into account his likes, dislikes, interests and personality. Mayo Clinic explains that while all autistic children have trouble with social interaction and language, symptoms, skills and behavior can vary greatly between individual children. Look at books or pictures to see what your child gravitates toward. Ask him questions about different topics. Provide some art supplies, objects or toys to see if he has certain preferences or aversions.

Read articles online, find books in your library or bookstore and speak to professionals such as doctors, teachers or psychologists to research activity possibilities.

Seek out any school networks that might be available to you, such as PTO groups and autism support groups. Connect with other parents of autistic children in your neighborhood and ask about their experiences and advice.

Offer games or projects that expose your child to multiple sensory experiences. These can help him learn to tolerate a variety of sensations, as long as the games and projects are not too overwhelming. For example, set up a rice table in which your child can swirl his hands or arrange different types of paper that he can scrunch into balls or shapes. Test out different materials to see what your child likes best.

Encourage movement through equipment that your child can climb, jump over or crawl on, such as mats or big cushions. As outlined in "Medical Daily," a 2013 study led by Kathy Ralabate Doody, Ph.D., of SUNY Buffalo State revealed that children with autism prefer systematic repetitive play that offers broad sensory stimulation. Set up stations where your child can manipulate objects by rolling, dropping or bouncing them. Encourage your child to switch from one activity to another as desired.

Speak with a physical or occupational therapist who may be available in your child's school to learn about other autism-friendly physical activities. Visit open spaces like fields or parks where your child can expend energy in different ways.

Things You Will Need

  • Sports equipment (such as mats, balls, cushions or trampolines)
  • Art supplies (such as paper, finger paint or rice)

How to Analyze the Behavior of Autistic Children

Determine the problem. Pinpoint the behavior that is causing a problem or becoming an annoyance. Be specific in your definition of the problem behavior. For example, defining the problem as “refuses to take off his shirt in before a bath” is more specific and addressable than “troublesome during bath time.”

Discover the situation and settings matching the behavior. Determine the set circumstances that match the action. Use the “three Ws” in your analysis: Who is around when he does this? When does he do this? Where does he do this? These situational aspects could be triggers for the behavior.

Evaluate your response. Recall how you typically respond to the behavior. Determine if your response is reinforcing the behavior. For example, if your child runs away from the sight of a spoon and you automatically comfort her by hugging her, you might be reinforcing the idea that running away is the correct action to encountering a spoon.

Establish whether or not your child’s action is part of a routine. Consider whether the individual action of your child is part of a larger fixed routine or ritual. According to the Texas Statewide Leadership for Autism Training, many problematic behaviors are part of a ritual: Autistic children need structure in their lives and often find it through developing strange or troublesome routines. Conclude whether your child is engaging in an independent behavior or a stream of actions that includes one or two problem behaviors.

Pick a method of addressing the behavior. Select a method that addresses one of the main aspects tied in with the action: situation, response or routine. Change the situation so that your child will not encounter the trigger that causes the problem; for example, if your child chews on non-edible things you leave on the dinner table, stop leaving non-edible objects on the dinner table. Alter your response to your child’s behavior; for example, instead of giving your child what he wants after a tantrum, send him to time out in response to the tantrum. Help your child rework his routine; for a child who only goes to the bathroom when you go, develop and present her a chart that displays the appropriate times to go to the bathroom. Consider combining these methods for a higher rate of success.

How to Curtail Physical Fighting Between Autistic Children

Discipline normally. For a moment, put aside the fact that the children are autistic and discipline the children just as you would with non-autistic children. Choose an effective form of discipline, such as the removal of privileges related to the action that ignited the fighting. For example, if the two children began fighting over a video game, remove their video game privileges for a certain time period. Remember: The fact that you are dealing with autistic children does not give them leeway in acting violently.

Employ relaxation techniques to alleviate the tension between the children. Most autistic children have habits or activities that grasp their full attention, calming them. Use such a method to calm the children down. Playing relaxing music, turning off the lights and or removing them from stimulating environments are all possible actions. According to the Georgia Department of Education, relaxation techniques are important because violence seen in autistic children often stems from feelings of stress or anxiety, not intentions to harm others; this fact makes relaxation an effective method of curtailing more violence.

Prepare for future incidents. Arrange your children’s play environment in a way that will reduce the occurrence of future fighting. For example, if you find that the children are more likely to fight in a loud environment, turn down the television volume or music. Also be ready for when fighting does occur; have rooms ready with which to separate the children. According to autism expert Jocelyn Taylor, author of the guide “Challenging Behavior and Autism,” because much of the misbehavior seen in autistic children reoccurs, parents should focus on preparing for the behavior in addition to working on reducing the behavior.

Consult a psychologist specializing in autism. Ask for an evaluation of your children and whether their conditions are severe enough to warrant training. Some autistic children benefit from training courses aimed at improving social interaction. If your children are consistently fighting, a specialized training might be necessary to curtail fighting in the long-term.