Q&A Section – I have a Hard Time dealing with my Son

This is the question of the month as featured in Issue Number 2


I am at a stage in my life where Im tired, my son is slightly autistic, and is difficult to manage at times. He is completely stubborn and is given me a really hard time of late. He is nearly 9 yrs and I dont want his behaviour to escalate where I cant manange him. He gets angry and demands everything and right now, its difficult, but dont know how to get this behaviour under control. Im really tired, and I parent alone – I need tips that both his father and I can use to pull the reigns in and make sure he has more respect for me and his home.

I just dont know what to do anymore, hope you can help.

Hard Time Dealing Autistic Son


I’m sorry to hear of your struggles. I understand how difficult it can be parenting a child with autism. It is very tiring.  Some of the best advice that I have received is to try to make sure you have time for you to rejuvenate and come back a rested, stronger mom.  I know this is easier said than done because finding suitable babysitters is another challenge.  Try to look into respite funding.  For more information on what respite is and who to contact to help pay for it visit http://archrespite.org/consumer-information#howtochoose.

About the challenging behaviors, have you considered taking him to see a licensed behaviorist?  Behaviorists can be a helpful bridge to communicating with your child.  They can help you understand the “why,” which in turn makes it slightly easier to deal with the behavior.  If you can’t afford a behaviorist or have no way to attend behavioral therapy then consider different behavior techniques until you find one or a combination that works well for you and your family.  I’m not sure what techniques that you have tried so please disregard what you have already attempted but wasn’t effective for you and your child.

Social Stories – There are many social stories books and apps to help with a variety of situations.  Carol Gray has come out with a new edition of her social stories and I highly recommend it. (http://www.amazon.com/Social-Story-Revised-Expanded-Anniversary/dp/1935274058/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1356380136&sr=1-1&keywords=social+stories+for+children+with+autism)

Story Boards –  a useful tool. Boardmaker is a free tool that has some great charts and storyboards. I recommend this problem-solving board to help kids learn how from situations, but you can also make your own boards or tokens, etc. http://www.boardmakershare.com/Activity/1704452/Problem-Solving-Board

Charts – I use this one to help prepare my child when going to a new place. http://autismbuddy.com/categories/printable-zone/reading-comprehension/i-wanti-dont-want-to-visit-board

Schedules – Routines are important to children with autism. They provide a sense of control in a world that they struggle to control.  If you haven’t already, try to create some type of a schedule. It doesn’t have to be detailed. It could be you wake up, get dressed, clothes in hamper, brush teeth, eat breakfast, get backpack, and go to bus. You can use phrases like: free time, outside play, inside play, etc.  Again you can find some useful schedule/chart ideas on Boardmaker or create your own using a white board with wipe clean markers.  Many schools use a laminated piece of paper with laminated pictures then fasten little Velcro strips to the back.  When the task is complete the child peels the picture off the chart and puts it into a folder that is attached to the bottom of the chart for future use.

Tidiness – Purging clutter is calming.  If you have trouble letting go of items consider donating them.  This way other people can use items that your child has outgrown or items that have lost his/her interest.  Most food pantries are happy to accept donations of all kinds (not just food).  Also, try sites like www.freecycle.com to turn your trash into someone’s treasure.

Choices – Letting them have some choices is important because it helps them make good selections as they get older.  It is best to provide two options as to not overwhelm the child with choices.  Would you like broccoli or carrots as your veggie?  Would you like to wear the blue pants or the jeans? Would you like to brush your teeth now or after breakfast? Would you like to eat your lunch at the dinner table or at the picnic table?  This provides some independence while still achieving the overall task.  As long as the child eats a veggie, dresses in weather-appropriate clothing, brushes their teeth, and eats – the HOW doesn’t matter so much.

Following Through with Discipline – If you promise to take away his TV or iPad or computer or whatever thing he is interested in for 20 minutes. Remember to stay calm, be clear, and allow one reminder. For some kids, taking away their interest is a stronger motivator than rewards.  You can try both and see which one proves more successful.  Younger children seem to respond well to sticker or token charts.  Especially, if you buy or print stickers/tokens of interest (i.e. bug stickers, princess stickers, trucks, trains, Super Why, Dora, Elmo, etc.).

I.e. You have the choice to pick up your dirty clothes and put them in the hamper or you can choose to leave them where they are and have 20 minutes of your {whatever his interest is} taken away.  If he starts to tantrum, calmly remind him that he has the choice and you will give him five minutes to make his choice. Tell him you will go set the timer.  When the timer goes off, if he made the choice to leave his dirty clothes on the floor then he will have his computer/iPad/etc. taken away.  Consistency is assuring and calming.  Knowing what to expect next is reassuring.

Sensory solutions – If he is having a sensory overload then provide some type of sensory fun.  The Out-of-Sync Child has Fun is filled with tons of ideas.  http://www.amazon.com/Out—Sync-Child-Has-Revised/dp/0399532714/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1356382794&sr=1-1&keywords=out+of+sync+child+has+fun

We hope some of these methods and ideas are helpful for you and your son.  Please feel free to write us back with a specific issue if something was not mentioned that is of concern.

 Thank you,
The Autism Parenting Team
Leslie Burby

    Leslie Burby

    Leslie Burby is the former Editor-in-Chief of Autism Parenting Magazine and a public speaker on autism related issues. She is the author of three autism related books: Emotional Mastery for Adult's with Autism (2013); Early Signs of Autism in Toddlers, Infants and Babies (2014); and the children's book Grace Figures Out School (2014).

  • Avatar Karen miller says:

    I really enjoyed our articles and you are a very helpful resource ..I am wondering if you can give me pointers for my 38 year o,d son who lives in a homes with two other residents .. He is becoming very obsessed with his roommates routine or lack thereof, and insists that they go out during the day.. We have tried social stories to tell him he must not worry about others butit doesn’t seem to be having the desired result… His roommates do not adhere to any routine like my son does and he find it very upsetting that they don’t go out each day…

  • Avatar karen bradshaw says:

    Hello, I would like to respond to the above article….I have been a spec.ed preschool teacher for 23 years and while all of your ideas where great and we use in our classroom, the Mother needs the help to keep her sanity and still be a good mom. I would recommend a parent support group of children on the Autism Spectrum. You can find much more advise, ideas and skills to use by other parents that are experiencing exactly what you are!!!! It is a very hard job, yes being a mom is a job….hang in there, you will reap the benefits one day!!!!, Karen

  • Avatar Jane says:

    Great article!

    Please visit our website to review the Monkey & Chops Daily Routine Chart, a fully magnetic chart for kids with simple, visual prompts.


  • Avatar Sharada Subbaraman says:

    Very nicely put. Techniques suggested does work well. I have tried with my son. Giving options helps in taking his own decision. I have also made schedules for my son to follow. As you say free time has to be included.
    Thank you for the information.

  • Avatar Vince says:

    Pretty good suggestions, I’ll add a couple:

    The question was about “slightly” autistic, which made me thinks that if he’s more aspie, then check out http://www.aspergerexperts.com/ – they have some free videos that will help you communicate better and understand what’s going on.

    I’m also a big fan of the Son-Rise mindset, it’s made all the difference in the world for us. Check out the “Breakthrough Strategies for Autism” DVD and similarly-named book. Changing your frame of mind might be just what is needed – as much for you as your child. Patience. They’re doing the best they can in their body.

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