Many children go through the “terrible-twos” or “horrible threes”, and this includes children with autism. The differing characteristic is that many children with autism are unable to communicate their wants unlike many other “typical” toddler or young child. Some children on the autism spectrum do not talk effectively until much later than others, so challenging behaviors can be stressful to the parents or guardians.
Challenging behaviors do not occur because of autism. The innermost processes of the mind of a child with autism may have results of impulsive behavior that the child may not be able to control. Just as the shaking due to Parkinson’s disease or the memory loss due to Alzheimer’s, the behaviors of a child with autism really cannot be helped by the child.
What you can Do
There are ways, however, you can help your child diminish some of the challenging behaviors. This does take some work on your part, and while the tactics may not completely eliminate the behaviors in question, they may help decrease the severity of them. The behavior modification takes time and patience, and above all else: consistency!
Rather than listing all of the challenging behaviors of your child with this unique ability, just pick one or two at a time. They may coincide with one another, such as throwing a temper tantrum before bedtime and unwillingness to even brush his teeth before bed. Pick the general behavior and pinpoint the time and the possible reasons for the behavior.
For example, if your child begins to become uneasy and unruly after dinner and around sunset, think of ways you can offset the behaviors before they begin. This can be done by making a picture schedule with a precise routine for after dinnertime. You can find clear, concise pictures with the help of your child’s speech therapist.
Take a poster board, cut it in half long ways, and add pictures of the time and the activity done at that time. Also, find a picture of him to use to move down the board. Think of every single thing you do from dinner until bedtime. Going down the poster board, Velcro the small images. Each time your child accomplishes that task, or when time is up, move his icon down to the next activity. Show him each time you move his picture, so he will see that bedtime is approaching.
It’s Okay to Ask for Help
If you are confused about how to make a picture schedule, ask your child’s teacher or speech therapist and they will help you. It’s okay to ask for support in order to help you and your child. Many people will be glad to help or send you in the right direction. If you do not wish to hang a schedule for him to see, perhaps you can put a schedule on an IPad or in a notebook. Whatever works for you and him is what matters.
There are ways to help with challenging behaviors, and please remember you have a support system. If your child is in an early intervention program, has a therapist, or if you have a close friend or spouse, there is help available. If you feel alone in dealing with the stress of these behaviors, contact your local school system or your pediatrician and they will most definitely point you in the right direction in terms of support. Remember that the less stressed you are, the better parent you can be to your child with this unique ability!