What are some easy behavior strategies for kids with autism?

When you have a child with autism, you might not know what each day is going to look like. Some days will be the most rewarding you’ve ever had; other days will make you feel like you just want to throw in the towel.

It doesn’t matter how old your child with autism is, or how long you’ve been working with kids with autism. Parents of kids with autism, as well as teachers and other autism professionals, are always looking for easy strategies to implement at home, at school, on the playground, and everywhere else your little loved one finds themselves!

1. Reinforcement of positive behaviors

Picture saying “no” all day long. To everything your child asks. To everything they want. To their behaviors, their accidents, their curiosities.

“No” might be an appropriate response to some things, but when you hear it all the time, without a break or relief, it can be diminishing and exhausting.

It can be tiring for you too, having to say no all the time.

That’s why positive reinforcement is so valuable. It feels so good to hear, and it feels so good to do.

When you positively reinforce, your child will be well aware of their progress in what they’re working toward, and to know that they’re meeting expectations. They’re much more likely to want to continue the behavior that’s being celebrated. They’re much more likely to be consistent with the behavior when they know they’re getting positive feedback.

2. Give choices.

When you give your autistic child a choice, they feel empowered and included. They remember that what they want matters.

It’s important, however, to make sure they’re not overwhelmed with choices, so make sure you’re giving them specific choices – and keep those choices to two things.

For example, instead of saying, “Look at this whole basket of fruit! Which would you like?” try saying, “Would you like an apple or an orange?”

You might ask, “Would you like to read this book or this one?” instead of “Do you want to watch a movie, play a game, or go outside?”

Letting them make choices throughout the day, while maintaining a routine, will help them feel motivated while being guided toward structure.

3. Transition proactively.

Transitions can be hard for kids with autism. Stopping one activity to start another can be trying. Some kids with autism have trouble with multi-step directions, while others may have cognitive challenges that help them work by themselves. Other kids don’t enjoy the shift from one activity to another.

When we help prepare our autistic kids with transitioning, they’re more likely to move through changes smoothly.

Some of the techniques we can employ for proactive transitions are:

a. Advance “warning” or notice that we’ll be stopping one activity now, and moving on to the next

b. Praise for a job well done, and light language talking about what’s to come

c. Structure and consistency (i.e. making transitions in specific time blocks, like every hour instead of at random times)

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