Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disorder that chiefly affects a child’s behavior, social interaction, empathy, and communication with others. The disorder can be anywhere on the autism spectrum with a shared core of symptoms. Thus, two kids with the same diagnosis could be very different when it comes to their behaviors, disabilities, and strengths.
As a parent of an autistic child, you will come across many terms like:
- High functioning autism
- Atypical autism
- Pervasive developmental disorder
- Autism spectrum disorder
Regardless of the disorder, no diagnostic test can give you a clear view of upcoming challenges. However, this article will discuss a comprehensive list of behaviors and triggers you can expect from your child with an autism spectrum disorder, and tips to effectively deal with them.
Challenging behaviors in autistic children and teenagers
Puzzling behaviors are standard with autism and mostly result from communication, sensory, and behavioral changes related to the disorder. Dealing with an autistic child can be very challenging, and here’s why:
- Autistic kids tend to act out or yell when they feel overwhelmed or frustrated.
- Kids with autism have trouble sitting still and may keep rocking or flicking.
- Children with autism are usually self-centered and barely pay attention to people or situations around them.
- They refuse or ignore requests blatantly without giving them a thought.
- They often behave in a way that is socially awkward or inappropriate, for instance, taking their clothes off in a crowd.
- They behave aggressively towards seemingly little things.
- Autistic children may come off as unkind to others because they have a hard time managing their thoughts and responses to adult or peer kindness.
- They find it hard to share their interests or achievements. For instance, showing you a drawing or pointing at an animal.
- Autistic children are unlikely to approach others to initiate a conversation and might come off as aloof.
- They hate physical contact and being forced into one.
- They often end up hurting themselves or the people around them. For instance, head banging or biting.
- They are unable to pick nonverbal cues from their parents. For example, they might not react back to your smile or understand your frown.
- They take language literally, so it is important to tell them explicitly what you want them to do.
- They struggle with focus and might not be able to process a bunch of ideas or thoughts simultaneously. So, try to keep conversations simple.
- While participating in a conversation, they might want to talk about one thing specifically and repeatedly.
- Autistic children are very sensitive to sounds, tastes, touches, smells, and sights. Remember that something normal for you could be very painful for them
What triggers misbehavior in autistic children?
Most of the time, autistic children get triggered by certain situations or behaviors, like:
Routines and habits
Autistic children have an affinity for predictable routines and can get very anxious if the routine changes. For instance, your child with autism might get upset over you taking a different route to their school because of the unfamiliarity.
Your child probably doesn’t understand how to transition from one thing or activity to another. They love familiarity, which is why they tend to resist change as hard as probable. They usually have a really hard time transitioning and mostly decline.
Autistic children often have heightened sensory sensitivities. For example, they might be urged to touch or feel certain surfaces or objects. They might get very upset if you keep them from doing so.
Your child on the spectrum will most likely get very distressed if too much is happening around them. Mostly they find noises too overwhelming and lights too bright, which is why they like going to quiet places and avoiding social gatherings.
Children with autism get distressed if they are told to do something they are incapable of. For instance, dressing up independently or tying their shoe laces.
Most autistic children suffer from sleep deprivation. If your child isn’t getting enough sleep or is exhausted from an activity or setting, then this can lead to a huge unexpected outburst.
Discomfort, pain, or illness
Sometimes discomfort, pain, or illness could be the leading reason for your child’s challenging behavior. They might be in pain or discomfort that they’re getting a hard time telling you about. Look out for Prickly or tight clothes or a painful bump on the skin or scalp triggering their irrational behavior.
Sometimes the erratic behavior could be a symptom of another condition besides autism, like epilepsy, mood disorder, and ADHD. All of these conditions can lead to severe mood swings and difficult behaviors. A medical assessment by your pediatrician can help you spot these conditions and manage them accordingly.
Tips for dealing with your child’s challenging behavior
Here`s how you can improve social skills and disruptive behaviors in your child suffering from autism spectrum disorder:
Talk to your child patiently with long pauses to help them understand and process the information.
Teach them how to express their anger in a healthy manner
Teach your child how to vent their anger or frustration without being too aggressive or self-harming.
Set and communicate boundaries
Make it clear to your child that hurting people or themselves is not an option and teach them those limits through instructions, visuals, tools, and social stories.
Show dedication and flexibility
Autistic children have trouble reciprocating someone’s feelings, so keep that in mind and do not get hurt if they show no response to your love or smile.
Like other children, autistic children might act out to get your attention. Talking to them about avoiding such behavior or rewarding them to encourage good behavior is the best practice in this case.
Ignore attention-seeking behaviors
Children with ASD have limited or short attention spans. Involving physical activities in their daily routine, like running around and playing outside, will teach them to retain their attention and feel calm simultaneously.
Respect your child`s personal space
Autistic children, just like the rest, and like to be hugged once in a while but remember that your child might not like it or get distressed with the physical touch. Respect their personal space and don’t force physical affection upon them.
Love and cherish your child
Children with ASD might be unable to show their emotions, but you, as a parent, certainly can. Go out of your way to show love, appreciation, support, and interest in them.
Keep an open mind and learn from your struggles and experiences
Your child’s disability is also a way to learn something new and look at the world from a different perspective. Your child’s condition may also teach you empathy and acceptance of others suffering from various conditions.
Believe in your child’s potential and your efforts
Do not make the mistake of defining your child by a diagnosis. Children are amazing, intelligent beings with the capacity to explore and grow. Believe in their ability to get better and not be held back by their disorder.
Dealing with something new can be very hard, and you are not committing a crime by taking a break. It`s your right to take a break, unwind, recharge, set goals for your child, and come back motivated. School psychologists and counselors can also help you by providing resources.
Autistic children tend to behave differently than neurotypical children of the same age. Knowing the difference between autistic behaviors from misbehaviors can help you deal with the challenges effectively. Research has proven that prompt and affectionate involvement of the family members is the best therapy for treating the early signs of autism.