Autism Behaviour Strategies

10 behaviour strategies for children on the autism spectrum

Children with autism spectrum tend to have behaviour problems.  These can stem for a variety of causes which can included; but is not limited to:

  • Having trouble understanding or interpreting spoken language
  • Having trouble interpreting non-verbal communication cues like body-language, sarcasm, facial expressions
  • Sensory processing disorders
  • A struggle with change and a need for sameness in their environments and routines;
  • Transitioning challenges and a real difficulty swiping from one activity to another
  • Difficulty organizing themselves in productive play when not directed or given specific instructions

Because behaviour issues are so common in autism we suggest you learn a few behaviour strategies which will help you prevent problematic behaviour from happening. Many of these strategies can also help during a behaviour outburst!

Top 10 behaviour strategies for children on the autism spectrum:

  1. Implement schedules in your everyday life.  Let the child know what will happen next and what the chain of events will be moving forward.
  2. Positive re-enforcement is vital as it acknowledges your child (or your student) for complying with your request.  Praising the child is vital for building confidence and for helping with anxiety.
  3. Give clear instruction so the child knows exactly what is expected of them.
  4. Allow for processing time – once you have given an instruction to the child allow the child time to comply with the request. 
  5. Take transitioning challenges into consideration and allow the child to “finish” one activity before they are expected to move to the next activity.
  6. Always consider the sensory input the child is getting from his/her environment.  Should a child become overstimulated from sensory input, such as in a large crowd or shopping centre, bring them to quieter place to help them regulate.
  7. Be consistent in your implementation of “rules” and make sure that everybody that is working with your child does the same. 
  8. Keep promises that you have made to your child.  If you have asked him/her to do something and they have complied make sure to follow through. 
  9. Stop “threatening” a consequence because your child will soon learn that it is only a “threat”.  Implement discipline immediately when the child is not complying.  An example of this would be stop or I will take the iPad away.  If the child does not stop then take the iPad away immediately.  Do not make it a negotiation and don’t raise your voice.
  10. Learn to pick your battles.  Learn that behaviour is part of childhood and that some battles are just not worth fighting over. 
  11. My 2 greatest pieces of advice is that you need to learn not to engage in “power-struggles” with your autistic child.  I promise you they will win time and again.  And that preventing a behaviour is also so much easier than trying to stopping it!
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Ilse Kilian-Ross

Ilse Kilian-Ross is the owner of Amazing K, a registered ECD and Partial Care Facility in Johannesburg. Amazing K is a private adhd school, autism school and therapy centre for children from age 2 - 6 years where learners receive the best of both the schooling and therapy world. The autism school offers Individualized Education Programs, Speech- and Augmentive Alternative Communication (AAC) therapy as well as a full and adapted Academic Curriculum.