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Spare The Rod? Disciplining
Autistic Children Effectively

By Rachel Evans

Choosing the method in which you decide to discipline your autistic child can be one of the most heart-wrenching and difficult decisions you can make. Since so many autistic children act out in a violent way, it is very difficult for many parents to not make the logical leap to spanking.

While there is no consensus whatsoever on the proper way to discipline an autistic child, one important point comes up again and again when researching the different methods and that is making sure the child understands that the punishment is a direct result of his/her actions.

Whichever method you choose, it’s best not to wait a long period of time between the punishable act and the punishment itself. Here are some other points to consider when it comes to discipline and an autistic child.

• Have a sliding scale of discipline. Don’t rely on an old standby like sending the child to their room for every form of punishment. You must have an increasingly severe punishment scale to fit the behavior.

• Consistency is key for the child to connect his behavior to the punishment. Make sure that mom and dad or anyone else that may be in a position to discipline the autistic child follows the same template and uses the same scolding technique. As parents of any autistic child know, repetition is very important and so is routine. If the same punishment is administered for the same bad behavior, it increases the chances for comprehension immensely.

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• Spanking is extremely controversial. There are proponents that were raised by parents who spanked and are determined to raise their children the same way, autism or no autism. It is my opinion that, at least for autistic children, spanking is not the way to go. If you look at the previous point about repetition, this would have to apply in all situations for it to work properly, including public situations.

I don’t think anyone wants to be seen in a public place spanking their autistic child; you would rightly expect a visit from child services the next day. Also, autistic children, even more so than regular children, are a sponge to events going on around them. If they see you hit and it is deemed acceptable behaviour, don’t be surprised to see an surge in your autistic child’s violence level. A non-autistic child has a much easier time understanding “do as I say, not as I do” when it comes to hitting.

• Finally, don’t give up hope with discipline if the first few methods you choose don’t work. One of the mantras you learn early on as a parent of an autistic child is that each and every child with autism is different. He or she may end up responding to unorthodox or unlikely forms of discipline that no non-autistic child would. Keep searching for the method that best suits you and your child and try not to get discouraged.

Dealing with discipline and autism can be one of the most difficult dilemmas a parent can face. But with patience and trial and error, you will find a happy medium that will work for both you and your child.



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