Taking a Bite out of Autism

A friend of mine called me yesterday needing help.  He too has an energetic, precious little boy on the spectrum and it’s been a blessing getting to know him and hear about his family and go through a lot of the same experiences.

For some reason he thinks I know what I’m talking about…boy do I have him fooled.  Maybe it’s because my son is a few years older.  Maybe it’s because I wrote a book with my wife (shameless plug to click and BUY IT!).

My friend’s son recently has been pulling hair and biting not only his parents but other little children as well.  “Did I have any experience with this?” my friend asked…”HAHAHA…uhh, I can still show you bite marks,” I replied.

So especially as a father, trying to teach and discipline your child as best you can…what are some things to be done about biting and pulling hair?

I think the first thing is to understand WHY your child is behaving like this.  Is it because of attention?  Is it because they’re mad or angry?  Is it because they want something?  Yes, yes, yes and yes…probably to all reasons.

The root of the issue goes back to COMMUNICATION.  Ugh, a parent’s nightmare with a child on the spectrum.  If only they could talk and express what they want, why they’re upset, how we can help.  Well they can’t…so GET OVER IT and let’s deal with it as best we know.

Being a child with autism is not an excuse for my son (nor should it be for your child) to have inappropriate behavior.  These are smart kids, they know the difference between Right and Wrong…trust me, they know more than we give them credit for.

As a father I want to hold my son to a level of behavior that would be typical for any 6-year-old.  Does he always reach that level?  No.  But that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be taught Right from Wrong or that there are CONSEQUENCES to our ACTIONS.

C’mon people…stop babying your child.  They’re not helpless.  They’re not incapable of good behavior.  No child is perfect but AUTISM IS NOT AN EXCUSE for poor behavior.

I encouraged my friend to take immediate action when his son pulls hair or bites or hits or does anything he knows is wrong.  If you don’t nip it in the bud immediately you can’t retro-punish them for behaviors, it just doesn’t work that way.

First thing is to take the child away from that situation.  They need to be told “no hitting,” “no biting,” “no pulling hair”…so verbally make sure they understand that they are doing a specific thing wrong…you can’t just say “No” or “Stop that” because they need to know the specific behavior.

My wife and I are big fans of the TIMEOUT…don’t roll your eyes, it works for us.  I’ve been told “the timeout does nothing”…well then you’re doing it wrong!

I GUARANTEE YOU that if you remove your child from the situation and put them in a corner while you’re holding their arms, legs (so no stemming) and covering their eyes–they will SOON LEARN THAT THEY DON’T LIKE THAT and will cease their bad behavior.

So give the timeout a try…but don’t half-ass it…make it an un-fun experience.

Back to the immediate response…some of you might not like this…but if my son is biting me, I’m not going to be passive about this.  I’m a fan of getting attention ASAP…this might be a pop on the thigh, a squeeze of the hand, a flick on the cheek or squeeze of the jaw…first of all to get him to get his molars out of my shoulder, arm or hand…secondly to get attention and to make it uncomfortable for him…he needs to relate some CONSEQUENCE to his ACTION.

I’m NOT condoning beating the snot out of your child.  I’m not condoning ever slapping the face or hurting your child so please don’t read that…I am condoning making it a swift, attention-grabbing, un-fun experience for the child so they’ll learn to stop it.

So often I see these parents give warnings…WHAT THE HECK IS A WARNING….those parents need to be put in timeout…”if you do this one more time…” BULLCORN…that’s not swift, that’s not attention getting, that’s a joke!

Once the child has stopped or calmed down…we always try to bring our son back to the situation and practice the correct way to behave.

If he has hit his sister then we get him to “show us gentle” to his sister and kiss on her and love on her.  If he’s thrown a fit then we go back to the scene of the crime and have him “love on his toys” or do something that will re-direct his wrong behavior to a correct behavior.

There’s no perfect scenario.  Does timeout always work?  No.  Does a pop on the fanny always work?  No.  Taking away the iPad seems to work pretty well these days…as with everything, you’ve got to be one step ahead of your child and be thinking of the next thing to help solve the problem.

And if all else fails…suck it up and keep on trying!

Thoughts?  Did I mention BUY MY BOOK?

To read more blogs from Seth and TheFowler4Group, check out their Website (www.lookatmyeyes.com) and while you’re there, buy a copy of their book, “Look At My Eyes”. 

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Seth/Melanie Fowler on Twitter
Seth/Melanie Fowler
Authored, Look at my Eyes, a parent's perspective re: navigating autism-early intervention, insurance, treatments, a paradigm of a family & child with autism
Seth/Melanie Fowler

Seth/Melanie Fowler

Authored, Look at my Eyes, a parent's perspective re: navigating autism-early intervention, insurance, treatments, a paradigm of a family & child with autism

3 thoughts on “Taking a Bite out of Autism

  • January 20, 2013 at 8:03 pm
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             “I GUARANTEE YOU that if you remove your child from the situation and put them in a corner while you’re holding their arms, legs (so no stemming) and covering their eyes–they will SOON LEARN THAT THEY DON’T LIKE THAT and will cease their bad behavior.”

    What you are talking about doing here is restraint and is cruel and inhumane to a child who does not have the ability to understand what is happening to them.  How would feel to have your arms legs held down and eyes covered when you were a child. or now if there was someone big enough to do it.  How dare you tell others to do this.  Anyone who feels that they need to resort to this kind of punishment needs to consult a professional Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA)

    Reply
  • January 20, 2013 at 7:50 pm
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    First of all you must treat inappropriate behavior according to why they do it. If a child with autism or any child for that matter is having inappropriate behavior to escape a situation or task taking them away from it to put them in time out will reinforce that behavior.  You have to treat the behavior according to function.  What works for one function will not necessarily work for another and might even reinforce the behavior. 

    Second, while I agree with you that autism is not an excuse for bad behavior your assumption that all kids with autism understand that their behavior is wrong is frankly incorrect.  Just because your son does something doesn’t mean all kids with autism will do it.  It depends on the severity of their autism and any mental retardation.  Do not put a guilt trip on parents if they can’t seem to make their child understand what they are doing is wrong. My son is severly austistic and his primary inappropriate behavior is self injury.  He did it for all the possible reasons escape, attention, to gain something he wanted, sensory input.  I know my son and after dealing with his behavior with the help of professionals not in the public school finally got him to understand he did not have to use self injury to communicate.  The public school he attended in 2007-2008 taught him to use his behavior to request what he wanted.  How? you might ask, well by writing a behavior plan and implementing it against our consent where every time he self injured or aggressed they stopped what they were doing and asked him “what do you want?”    
       

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  • January 20, 2013 at 6:50 am
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             Thankyou very much, I will try all this with my son.

    Reply

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