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Self-discipline is a skill that most autistic children have trouble acquiring. This includes not only inappropriate outbursts, but also habits that can be potentially dangerous, such as being aggressive towards others or causing harm to themselves, such as banging their heads on walls or punching walls. To prevent these and other behaviors, one technique parents can use to control autistic tendencies is self-management. Giving the child power over him- or herself is often the key to keeping control over violent outbursts and may be a positive step towards learning appropriate behaviors as well.

Self-management works because the child is no longer fully controlled by others. By teaching self-management during specific times of day the child will be more likely to continue to practicing self-control during all times of the day. The key is to implement a program in which he or she monitors his or her own behavior and activities.

For years we did ABA therapy with our own autistic son and although this helped it was not sustainable due to insurance costs and age. Once our son hit about the age of 8, he was ‘aged out’ of more ABA therapy, which is targeted to much younger children on the spectrum. So, after this happened, we relied more on a token rewards system.

Of course, an important part of self-management is a rewards system. Have the child come up with his or her own reward, depending on interest. Reinforcement will make these good behavior goals more clearly marked in the child’s mind, and by choosing and rewarding him- or herself, the child will feel completely in control of the self-management system. Choose simple rewards to start, such as smiley faces for every goal met and sad faces for every goal not met, and work up to a larger goal, such as a special activity or new toy when a certain number of smiley faces has been attained.

These types of programs do not develop overnight, so it is important that you and your son or daughter have enough time to get accustomed to a self-management experience that works for both of you, but especially for them. By reinforcing good behavior with rewards, he or she will be more likely to carry this on even when not going to some type of therapy for behavioral adjustment. If your autistic child is mature enough, this could be something that they can apply to daily living skills.

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