Simple Behavior Strategies for Children with Autism

  • Teach time management by using timers.
  • Set expectations and give rewards for good behavior.
  • Give the child a sense of control with choices.
  • Redirect bad behavior by changing their focus.
  • Help the child to de-stress in crowds.

When dealing with any child, it is important to keep a leveled head and to be patient. Caring for an autistic child may present several obstacles but the same rules apply. Here are five easy-to-implement behavior strategies for children with autism.

Related resource: Top 25 Online Master’s in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

1. Time Management

Children with autism may have a difficult time with understanding how long it takes to complete an activity. An example of this would be allowing ten minutes for playtime until the next activity begins. If the child is unaware of exactly how much time they have left, playtime may end quite abruptly and cause them to react negatively. Using a sand timer or a visual clock timer will help you to easily communicate how much time is left for playing.

2. Reward Good Behavior

Behavioral expectations must be made clear to the child. It is also important to inform the child if they have done well. It is the caregiver’s responsibility to follow through with any promises that are made. If the caregiver promises to give the child extra play time or some kind of treat for behaving while in the grocery store, the caregiver must be consistent with whatever they commit to. If no bargains are made with the child, be sure to thank them for behaving well and letting them know that you are proud of their good behavior.

3. Let Them Choose

It is important for the child to have a sense of control. By giving the child simple choices to make, it allows them to feel included and empowered. Be sure to give very specific choices as children with autism may be overwhelmed by too many options. Asking them if they’d prefer orange juice over grape juice or if they’d like to play a game over watching a movie. If the child has difficulties with language, be sure to have visuals of the options so that they can select them by themselves.

4. Distract Bad Behavior

If the child is behaving poorly, telling them to stop wouldn’t be the most effective solution. Showing them how to properly behave and making it a competition would be more effective. If the child is running around in a mall or grocery store, get their attention and show them how to walk properly and offer a reward if they can maintain that good behavior. Giving them a goal to meet will give them more incentive to behave properly rather than simply being told to stop doing whatever they’re doing.

5. Find a Quiet Place

Being in large crowds or particularly noisy environments can lead to sensory overload in the child. If the child does not react calmly to the situation, be sure to take them away from the noise and find a quiet place to regroup. Bringing along one of their favorite toys or items from home can help them to focus on something that reminds them of a calm place. If the child has already shown uneasiness in these types of situations, then it is the caregiver’s responsibility to mindful of the child’s stability.

According to Rachel Wise, the author of 15 Behavior Strategies for Children on the Autism Spectrum, children with autism may have difficulties with taking in sensory input, deviating from a routine, understanding a person’s feeling or opinions, and switching from one activity to another. With these five behavior strategies for children with autism, a caregiver of an autistic child can adapt to meet the child’s needs.