Proper Discipline for an Asperger's Child....

Dawn - posted on 11/22/2009 ( 18 moms have responded )

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My son is now 12 years old, and we only found out he has AS a little over a year ago. Although I have a lot of knowledge on AS and his diet, exercises, how to teach him the social skills, and understanding that I am SUPPOSED to have rock solid patience with him - I keep banging my head against the wall when it comes to discipline and getting him to do his chores. The ONLY chore he has to do is wash the dishes and it takes 4 hours to get him to get the smallest load done. I can handle the jumping around the house, and the nonsensical noises he makes ALL the time. I can handle the bickering with his brother and even the dirty clothes all over the place because he throws them at the ceiling fan. What I am having problems with is the talking back, constant whining and crying, and not doing the dishes. My husband's answer is to spank him (ok those are not his words but I am trying to be nice about it) but spankings do not work and my mother beat me as a kid so I don't want to do that to him. We have tried the positive reinforcement, and the redirection. I have tried reward charts and taking away privileges. Nothing seems to matter to him. When I holler at him he just stares at me with this look and then does whatever he feels like doing anyhow. For the first 10 years he was diagnosed ADHD and that was a hard road to accept in itself. AS is a whole new world and I am not sure where I fit into it. Last night I had an emotional melt down and said things to my son that I did not mean. He ended up leaving the house and didn't come how for 2 hours. During which time I freaked out because I didn't know where he was. But he was at his friends house watching a movie and was safe. When he came home it was like nothing even happened. And then this morning he is back to being my wild child and nothing from last night has even sank in. How can I get him to be disciplined so that it sinks in and he learns what behaviors are acceptable?? Before I totally lose my mind. Oh, and a little history - he had been on every medication for ADHD and nothing worked right for him. We took him off all meds on 10/28 and changed his diet and added vitamin supplements and he is doing better then he was before, so I know meds are not the answer he needs.

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Danielle - posted on 11/24/2009

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My daughter is 11 and has AS. Chores for her are awful. Heck, even taking a shower is almost a punishment to her! I had spoken with the autism consultant for our school district and she was very good at explaining things to me to make me understand "why" these things are so difficult for her to do. If a child with AS sees no "benefit" to them, they are less likely to do what you are asking. Even with the shower situation, I am usually taking her away from reading a book, watching TV, etc. She doesn't want to leave what she is doing, so it becomes meltdown time. Even explaining and having her read a wonderful book about hygiene/puberty hasn't helped. She doesn't care if her hair is a complete mess and/or greasy! She can't "see" it, as she told me. And that makes sense...she can only see it if she looks into a mirror, but if she's not looking in the mirror, it's not there. The autism consultant suggested using a checklist. Whether it's for getting ready in the morning, taking a shower, chores...write down everything that they need to do, then it's "concrete information". So for the dishes, you could write:
1. Turn the water on so that it is warm to your touch
2. Put the sink plunger in
3. Add soap (you could draw how much soap, like a quarter size or even use a medicine cup to have him measure how much)
4. Wait until the water gets to ______ whatever amount you think he needs!
5. Add the forks, spoons, butter knives to the water.
6. Wash the silverware until there is no food on them
7. Rinse the silverware
8. Put the silverware in the silverware basket

Go on through the rest of the dish duty in the manner you see fit. The consultant suggested laminating any checklist that could get wet and make sure it is in a spot that they can see when they are doing dishes, taking a shower, getting dressed, etc.

The consultant also explained the meltdowns so that I could understand why. She said," Imagine you are holding a big tray full of glasses. Some of the glasses are empty, some are half full, some are so full that it is almost spilling. You need to keep holding onto this tray all day while the glasses are filling up, emptying, and disappearing. The glasses represent the problems, anxiety, happiness, basically everything the child with asperger's goes through in a day. When the tray becomes to much to hold onto, there is your meltdown and the tray drops. The meltdown could be the first drop of water into a glass that happened 5 days, one minute, a week ago. Something that us parents probably saw as "no big deal". (which, unfortunately, makes it harder for us to decipher and figure out!) But after that tray drops, it is finally "wiped clean". Their meltdown has happened and they finally, for lack of a better term, get over it!" I don't know if that made sense to you, but it helped me today to write it and remember why my daughter has her meltdowns!! Kind of needed that reminder today!

We have also started (and stopped) the GFCF diet with supplements. We saw great improvement in her focus and excitement for life while she was on the diet. She was easier to get along with as well. We stopped the diet because she wanted to. As soon as we stopped, she started having behavior problems at school and at home. We are going to be starting the diet again on Friday and she understands why. She even stated that she felt "kinda better" while she was on it.

Sorry this posting turned into a book, but I hope something that I said can help you and your child. If nothing else, you can realize that we are all going through the same trials and tribulations that you are!!

Tina - posted on 11/25/2009

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Hi Dawn,
I really do know how you feel, when our daughter who is 11 was diagnosed with Aspergers we were at our wits end. She was diagnosed 2 years ago. One thing I have learned with her because she was the same way with chores, is it's something that she has to see is needed. What we finally did because just telling her to do a chore was a constant battle, we aslo have a 20 year old who has aspergers as well. I sat down and made a chore list of all the chores in the house that needed to be done. Then we had a family meeting. Instead of delegating the chores like I had alwsys done, I let them choose what chores they wanted to do, I went down the list and asked okay who wants to do this chore, I explained before doing that if the chores did not get chosen I would delegate them. So we went thru all the chores and I didn't end up having to delegate any of them. I made a big poster board chore chart with all the family names on it including mom and dad, so the kids saw that they were not the only ones who were responsible for doing chores. Every morning or afternoon after school the first thing they have to do is look at the day they are on and see what chore they are responsible for that day. We explained that to have the house clean and not so chaotic , everyone had to chip in. Let me tell you I did not know how it was going to pan out but I was pleasantly surprised that the house is clean and everyone is doing what they are suppoosed to be doing on a daily basis, consistency is a major thing for kids with aspergers. For the first week I had to give them a gentle reminder to look at the chart but now they do it consistently. As for dinner dishes we make it so that everyone has a hand in doing them, we take turns, for ie. My daughter and son have dinner dishes every other night and my husband and I do them the other nights. It works like a charm. I am sorry to have rattled on but I really do understand where you are coming from. We were arguing everyday on the chore thing and it resulted everyday in tears and meltdowns, now it runs pretty smoothly, now I will not say that there aren't days where I have to prod them to look at the chart but for the most part it works for us. I hope that helps a bit.

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My biggest problem is figuring out whether a problem is a result of the Asperger's or something else and what's the best way to handle it.. I am talking about my grandson who experienced some pretty traumatic events before he came to live with me. I know that some of his behavior is due to post- traumatic stress and, at those times, he needs to be reassured in some way that he is loved and safe, not disciplined. I sure have been criticized a lot in those situations. Like a lot of kids with Asperger's, he is extremely sensitive to noise and crowds, to certain textures of food and clothing, has poor social skills, and behavior that is sometimes very inappropriate for the situation (like laughing when I am upset about something that he has done). Until I figured all of that out, we had alot of bad days. Now I choose to not fight some battles - like the ones about food or clothing or going to places that will be crowded and/or noisy. I spend a lot of time explaining what is appropriate behavior, body language, voice tone, etc. in different situations. I use The Golden Rule a whole lot. And I think that he is finally beginning to understand how it applies to whatever he did. He has definitely learned not to laugh when I am upset. When he is angry and disrespectful, there is no sense saying or doing anything until he is calmer. He has gotten so that he sometimes goes to his room even without being told to go. Sometimes I know that I need to remove myself from the situation and will go to my room or out of the house for awhile. (He is okay alone for short periods of time.) And sometimes I tell him that I won't talk to him until he calms down and I don't. Eventually he will let me know that he is calm and will apologize in a sincere manner. After that, we talk about the incident and what should happen as a result of his behavior. And I know that some of his behavior is just because he is 14 or is being lazy or is testing me,or whatever. Taking away his internet connection seems to be the only thing that helps during those times. I have to confess that I am not as hard on him as I was with my own kids. I do spoil him in a lot of ways. Even though I am older and wiser (I hope), I still feel like a lot of my decisions are just guesswork and based on trial and error. I sure wish somebody would write one of those books for dummies about raising our kids. LOL

Julie - posted on 06/02/2011

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Wow...you touched a note with me! My son is 14 with PDD, ODD & ADHD. He has calmed down over the last few years & seems to have outgrown his sensory issues. He is also my 1st teenager. I cannot get him to do his chores without nagging for days and days. He smirks and says if I paid him he would do them. I tell him he needs to contribute to the family and learn some life skills for when he moves out. His only chores are taking out the garbage and recycling as needed and putting the containers at the curb on trash night, and putting the dishes away as needed. His chores have changed as he always has a problem doing them. My other issue is that he doesn't do his chores right...he does them the quick and lazy way. He "forgets" to put the trash bag in the container, he "forgets" to put the lids back on the outdoor cans & any dish that goes in a cupboard gets thrown in & the door closed before it falls out...you can imagine what my cupboards look like...and the head bonks we've all sustained! LOL My son is at the age where I can not physically keep him from going outside and that is the only priviledge I have to take away from him. I'm at my witts end and SO tired of fighting with my husband, who hasn't been around for the whole, long bumpy road of raising a special needs child. Please let me know if you find anything that helps...and know you're NOT ALONE!!! =)

Emma - posted on 11/24/2009

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A lot of really good suggestions have already been made! I have a son with a lot of sensory issues so I think it is worth checking to see if that is what is causeing the problem. If it is not sensory issues you are dealing with, maybe you need to sort out what is the asd and what is just typical teen behaviour. I read in a book that teens are more likely to look at others as role models then there parents.

Does your son have an uncle, sports coach or a school friend that might either have him for tea on the condition that they work together on the dishes, or at your house.
Put on some music and use the spoons as pretend mics! Anything that make the chore fun to do. I don't know it if happened too often he may only do it while the friend is over.
Maybe he might enjoy some fun time with mum if you do the dishes together.


I guess what i am trying to say is instead of trying a reward system where you have to do the boring chore then have fun try to make the chore fun and a reward in itself.

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K. Erin - posted on 12/16/2010

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My son has just been diagnosed with PDD-NOS earlier this year, he is 9. I totally understand where you are coming from and I am wondering myself if it isn't hormonal. When my son was 6, chores were a blast...he loved every moment of it...now other things have changed, i am sure but I am noticing more pouting, whining...even back talking, which is wholly unacceptable in my house, than ever. He is a great kid and he knows he has chores, I keep a board on the fridge for his chores for the week, I also let him pick his chores a week in advance so he knows what to expect all week long. This method works wonders but he still whines and complains...I tell him, mom and dad work, even your little two year old sister loves helping with the dishes...you have to do your part too kiddo. I know what it's like feeling like you have been emotionally beat down, I mean after all I do have one in the terrible two's and an autistic kid all at once...scary huh? I definitely would've punished him for leaving like he did, even if you were just glad to see him safe when he came back home...that would've been punishment city. Anyways, I hope things work out for you and him...like I said, you might want to look into hormonal triggers...its bad enough our kids are basically designed to retreat in any social situations but pack on hormonal teen years and it's gotta be very tough for any parent. Hang in there and be persistent, you're doing a fine job!

Stacy - posted on 12/16/2010

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Another "wow that's my kid!" here. :) Mine also has zero currency - nothing I can take away, bribe him with, etc will get him to do something. What HAS worked for us - work his chores around the things he enjoys. He doesn't have any sensory issues, but what's the whole point of chores? To help around the house or to do what he's told? For us, it's to contribute to the family. So as long as DS is helping out - then that's enough for me. We let him choose what he wanted to do to help, so he feeds the dogs nightly, and he loves cleaning things with a wet wipes, so he gets to clean counters and windows and baseboards and all that lovely stuff. If you make the chore fun, then they're more likely to do it - it's not an Aspergers thing, it's a kid thing! :)

Dawn - posted on 12/16/2010

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He sounds exactly like my daughter, she is 5 and has PDD-NOS, ODD, and ADHD. And like you NOTHING WORKS! And I have to agree with the others that it could be sensory overload. Your son can't necessarily explain that that is what is going on, but it is very possible. I obviously don't know all of my daughter quwerks per say, but I am learning a lot about what causes sensory overload. I have yet to figure out what form of discipline works with her and so I struggle daily with that. All I can say, is you are definately NOT alone, and keep trying to be patient! It's hard, I struggle daily with my patience level with her.

Jennivie - posted on 12/16/2010

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I apologize if someone else already said some of this.It is quite possible that the chore is too overwhelming for him. It was for me. (I'm looking into AS for myself) I had to tweak and retweak how I did things over the years until I figured out a system that worked. But it is still hard at times. Now what I do is separate everything as I go. First I load all silverware, then all glasses, then plates, then bowls, then misc. Then I do the pans and things that don't go in the dishwasher by hand. I change it up sometimes but generally I do blocks of items. Also I listen to music to help it seem less like a chore.

He very well may have all kinds of sensory issues. He may not like getting his hands icky, or wet.

I agree maybe try a different chore and see if there is a change of heart. Or try breaking it down into very simple steps. even give him a step by step chart.

That doesn't help you in other areas except it is possible a lot of his acting out stems from a possible feeling of things "never being good enough" in regards to his chore. Reward what he does do.

Have you ever calmly asked if it is overwhelming to him?

Annette - posted on 11/24/2009

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my son now 10 yrs was 1st a classic autistic but with early intervention for 3 years he started at a the local main stream school and with teacher aids has improved and is now classified as aspergers, I have never medicated him and hope to never will. he likes to do chores when asked but i choose things he is in the mood for like; folding the towels, cleaning the bath tub, bringing washing in, helping to cook, feed the pets. He has understood he was diffferent and autistic from the start of school he has little quirks and denys them but but deep down he understands and says things like sorry thats just my aspergers. We tend to be close so he gets upset when I disapprove of certain behaviour and we are working everyday on his social skills. He still believes even though his 11yr sister doesn't in the magic of xmas and knows that mum can email santa when he is too bad, so this time of year he tends to try to behave.

Dawn - posted on 11/24/2009

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Thank you every one for the advice. I guess I have a lot to think about. I never considered sensory over load, because he has never had that problem in the past. He just "hates" doing it. He CAN, and knows how, but just hates it so much that if he thinks he wastes too much time, I will cave in and do them myself. (Little does he know, Mommy hates dishes more then he does LOL) I guess what I was seeing as a chore to teach responsibility he might be seeing as a torture. Although, I DID give him the ultimatum - As long as he brought home all his home work and completed his assignments he would not have to do the dishes for that day. That worked for 2 days and he has stopped bringing home his school supplies again. Something tells me that I am going to have about 200 "posters" hanging all over my house. In an orderly manner somehow of course.

Donna - posted on 11/24/2009

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Have you considered that doing the dishes may cause some sort of sensory overload for him? People with AS can have some quirky things that bother them. Could you have him trade chores with his brother? Or just give him something else to do as his chore.

Julie - posted on 11/24/2009

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Quoting Juli:

What about changing the chore? With sensory issues, the feel of the water, soap etc, and the smell might be too much for him. Maybe he could take clothes from the dryer and put them on hangers. I make this a game with my son. I hang the clothes, but then he makes the "deliveries" to everyones closets, drawers, etc. Maybe he could take the garbage out. You might want to think about giving him two smaller chores instead of one big one. You could always just tell him.....as a member of this family you must complete a chore, which do you prefer? Then you can give him two choices. Just something to think about ( :



This was my first reaction too. I would consider relating his chores to his special interest if he has one. Or smaller chores. Have him help select the chore(s) so he has"buy in." Good luck to you.

Denise - posted on 11/23/2009

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wow he sounds exactly like my child i can so relate,except he takes meds for adhd,and anxiety.i try to take away priveleges it works for the moment,but i am at a lost.we even go to counseling bimonthly which helps discuss problems resulting from his diagnoses and family issues due to his behavior.i have met someone who uses pet therapy for some kids,but for my child it is hard due to his anxiety.if you get any good feedback can you please forward it on to me.

thanks denise triola moocow67@att.net

Deb - posted on 11/23/2009

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This is a tough question as I have worked with many kids with Autism and have my own son who just turned 16 also autistic....but the truth is these kids have a mind of there own I tell everyone Corey is like a computer once taught how to run the program it often changes. and sometimes the chores that seem so small to us are huge to them, Corey can not was dishes I do try to make him rinse the dishes or start small tasks around this, Corey can freak out over what I think is nothing and to him its a huge deal for example: the summer I was trying to hurry to get to a friends house somewhere he loves to go... I was trying to rush so much that I did not notice he was busy watching something outside *it was a tow truck* but I wanted to go so i took him by the hand and said lets go Corey, he screamed at me and kicked and yelled I was really mad and still never understood the problem,and took him to a time out chair, and told him to sit until he was done freaking which only made the problem worse, but I insisted he stayed there and threw the yelling and tears the word tow truck came out and I realized what happened I never excused the behavior but I am now aware for the most part when this behavior happens there are little things that I can do to prevent it and it really seems to work for me.

Juli - posted on 11/23/2009

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What about changing the chore? With sensory issues, the feel of the water, soap etc, and the smell might be too much for him. Maybe he could take clothes from the dryer and put them on hangers. I make this a game with my son. I hang the clothes, but then he makes the "deliveries" to everyones closets, drawers, etc. Maybe he could take the garbage out. You might want to think about giving him two smaller chores instead of one big one. You could always just tell him.....as a member of this family you must complete a chore, which do you prefer? Then you can give him two choices. Just something to think about ( :

Dawn - posted on 11/22/2009

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Thank you for the encouragement. Nothing seems to matter to him. I have tried making him earn his privileges and toys back. He could have NOTHING to play with, and have to work towards the slightest thing, and he still won't cooperate. One time, he was grounded to his room and literally the only thing in the room was his bed. He picked the plaster off the wall until there was a 3 foot hole in the wall. It was awful. I think I am just a wits end some times.

Juli - posted on 11/22/2009

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I just want to encourage you and let you know that you are not alone! We both know that there are no easy answers and no quick fixes. You will just have to keep trying until you find something that works. Don't give up! With my son, we must "take away" all distractions. He really likes to go outside and ride his bike (3 wheel bike) so if we need him to do some chores, he must do those before he goes outside. He is motivated because this is something he really likes to do. I don't know if this will work for you (it didn't for us....) but you could make him earn his time for tv, computer, outside, time with friends etc.

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