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How To Discipline a Child That Has Asperger's

Updated on September 26, 2012

Steps for the Most Effective Discipline Strategy

Parenting is a tricky business. At the best of times, it can be a real challenge balancing the desire to show love and approval toward your children with the need to direct their behavior in the most appropriate directions. When your child has Asperger's Syndrome, the balancing act gets even trickier. Some unusual or inappropriate behaviors exhibited by children with Asperger's Syndrome are beyond their control, and the process of learning to avoid them will take much time and patience. Other behaviors may need to be addressed firmly and immediately.

Step One: Set Up Clear Expectations

Children with Asperger's Syndrome are by nature inclined to want very clear guidelines on what to expect in their lives. They like structure, order, and predictable outcomes. Therefore, if you want your Aspie child to behave in a certain way, set that expectation up clearly. If you want your child to do certain chores, make a written plan that shows each chore that the child is expected to do, and when it is scheduled to be done. Children cannot be expected to follow rules they are not aware of or do not understand.

Step Two: Anticipate Potential Trouble Areas in Advance

Most children with Asperger's Syndrome have some circumstances that are unusually uncomfortable for them, and that can trigger negative behavior, including meltdowns. Identify those potential high-stress areas in your child, and talk with him or her about them in advance. Suggest potential coping mechanisms or appropriate choices to make when confronted with a stressful situation. Children will handled adversity better if they have been given the tools to face it.

Step Three: Manage the Meltdowns

If your child has Asperger's Syndrome, at some point, she or he is likely to have a meltdown. It is not always possible to anticipate every possible stressful situation. Here are a couple of suggestons of what to do if your Aspie child has lost control, from

  • If your child seems likely to hurt himself or others hold him until he calms down.
  • Tell your child that you will continue to hold her until she can control herself.
  • Reassure the child that he is still loved and that everything will be OK.
  • Provide a safe, secure place for Time Out, if necessary.
  • Talk to the child about what happened, and suggest positive choices for the future.
  • Keep your own temper.
  • Never, ever spank a child who is having a meltdown.
  • Never, ever give in to the tantrum. The child must not get the message that violating the rules of acceptable behavior will result in the rules being cast aside.

Step Four: Provide Clear Consequences

Just as the child with Asperger's Syndrome needs to have a clear understanding of what behavior is expected, so he also needs to have a clear understanding of what consequences will follow if those expectations are not met. If possible, these should be natural consequences of his or her behavior. If the child has thrown objects around the floor or tipped over the garbage can, a natural consequence might be to clean up the mess. If the child has neglected to do chores, he or she might lose some portion of the next week's allowance.


Step Five: Use Positive Reinforcement When Possible

One of the best ways to encourage positive behavior in your Aspie child - or in any child, really - is through positive reinforcement. If you see your Aspie child making effective choices that prevent a stressful situation, praise him or her for her good judgement. Provide incentives for good behavior. Create a chore chart and give out stickers or some other kind of recognition for a job well done.

Step Six: Explain Why

Children with Asperger's Syndrome - like other children - are typically more successful at complying with house rules when they understand why those rules exist. The phrase "Do it because I say so" is not likely to be very effective. During a calm time, sit down and talk about he rules and why they must be followed. If possible, enter in to something like a Socratic dialogue. Ask the questions that help the child discern the best answer. "What do you think might happen if we just left all these toys lying all over the floor? What might happen if somebody stepped on one of the toys? What might happen to the toy? What might happen to that person's foot?" Help them figure out why they should follow the rules; they will be far more likely to regard those rules as part of their safe, secure routine.

Parenting and Discipline: How to Discipline a Child that Has Asperger's, by Dr. Craig Childress


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    • ESPeck1919 profile image

      ESPeck1919 5 years ago from Minneapolis, MN

      I had meant to comment on this before, but this is a very well done hub. It sheds a lot of light on the difficulties behind raising a child with Aspergers, and quite a few other related problems, too.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 5 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      These are excellent recommendations. Our daughter has Aspergers and we have used all of them in helping her to learn and cope with her environment. Words are the Asperger's child's friend. Showing doesn't seem to be enough, we have to talk through step by step and do the task together until she is able to learn and do it herself.