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Hello,

 

Anyone have suggestions on how to gain your 11 year old respect back. My son who is 11, and on the autistic spectrum is very disrespectful to me. He laugh in my face and when told to do something he says no and doesn't listen. He just laughs at us. He has no respect for his parents especially me(his mother). Lately, all I do is cry daily. He constantly making funny noises making fun of what we say. I have taken his computer privileges away and he seems to get worse and cries like a 2 year old. I am at my wits end and do not know what to do to regain his respect or to at least have him be a respectful child. Please, please if anyone can give me some suggestions that I can do right now to help me mentally and emotionally and also to help him be the child he should be. Thank you and praying a lot.

Lillian

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Hello,

 

Anyone have suggestions on how to gain your 11 year old respect back. My son who is 11, and on the autistic spectrum is very disrespectful to me. He laugh in my face and when told to do something he says no and doesn't listen. He just laughs at us. He has no respect for his parents especially me(his mother). Lately, all I do is cry daily. He constantly making funny noises making fun of what we say. I have taken his computer privileges away and he seems to get worse and cries like a 2 year old. I am at my wits end and do not know what to do to regain his respect or to at least have him be a respectful child. Please, please if anyone can give me some suggestions that I can do right now to help me mentally and emotionally and also to help him be the child he should be. Thank you and praying a lot.

Lillian

I suggest that with an 11 male, you get your husband involved. Your dh can tell your son that he is expected to respect his mother and do what you say or there will be consequences if he doesn't. Then make sure that you and dh follow through on consequences.

 

Go ahead and take away those computer privledges until he behaves more respectfully towards you! If he cries when you take away computer privledges then it seems to be a punishment that gets through to him. If he behaves worse when you take away his computer, it's because he's hoping you will break down and give him what he wants. I suspect that he will respect you more if you follow through on punishing him and restricting his computer priveledges--not just because of the consequences but because he will respect you more if you can pull it together and do what you say you are going to do.

 

As to the funny noises all the time, is possible that they may be involuntary? Maybe discuss that with your doctor.

 

Praying for you--and your son and husband.

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OK hold the phone... my son has autism. It is a spectrum. I cannot fathom my son being able to understand respect. What has the psychologist said about his developmental age? It could be that he is mentally like a 4 year old and this is somewhat normal. The rule with (classic) autism is: ignore undesired behaviour that is not dangerous or destructive. ANY sort of acknowledgement of the behaviour is actually reinforcing it and it'll come back ten-fold. For dangerous behaviour you first ensure everyone/everything's safety, then redirect attention elsewhere while stating the positive (ie: hands are for gentle patting; voices are for talking softly) because the negative is often heard but misunderstood. However, if he is high functioning and able to understand what respect is and shows cognitive maturity in ideas or things unseen (such as understanding what love, respect, honesty are) then a social story would be a perfect fit. Again, focusing on appropriate behaviour in a positive way. "I speak nicely to my mother. When I speak nicely and say please and thank you, everyone is happy."

I'd think long and hard about punishments or discipline. It hasn't been working, so why continue? Your expectations may far exceed his ability. Honestly, I'd seek the help of a behaviour modification therapist and psychologist.

Edited by specialmama
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:bigear: This is high on our list when we see the neuropsychologist next month. For now I do not listen to requests or discuss problems until my DD is speaking in a respectful tone and ignore as much of the undesirable tone and noises as possible, especially if she does what I ask her to do.

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thank you for all your suggestions. My ds is very involved. He disrespects us both. We had an incident this morning. He is laughing when we get upset with him. I have taken the computer for 2 weeks and all he says is we are ruining his life. My husband doesn't want me to homeschool him anymore because of his behavior. We have an appointment with his pediatrician tomorrow for a consultation and will discuss behavioral therapist and what ever else he needs. Thanks again for your thoughts.

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Have you read my above response? If he is mentally 4 years old, this is normal. It is normal for a child with autism to get "hooked" on emotions because they don't understand other people's emotions. They like the reaction they get, similar to learning how a word "cookie" gets them a cookie. It's simple cause and effect. Don't get upset at him because he does this, he probably can't help it. My son used to laugh when someone cries, and he used to hit his sister in order to maker her cry.... but it was not malicious, it was because he does not understand other people's emotions. We have extinguished this behaviour, he does not do this anymore because we have learned to not have reactions to undesirable behaviour. Have you read any books about autism? Have you been to a national autism conference? Have you seen the movie Temple Grandin? Please find out all you can about this, because I do not believe your son is willingly disrespecting you. There are other proven methods of helping him. :grouphug: Hugs to you.

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thank you for all your suggestions. My ds is very involved. He disrespects us both. We had an incident this morning. He is laughing when we get upset with him. I have taken the computer for 2 weeks and all he says is we are ruining his life. My husband doesn't want me to homeschool him anymore because of his behavior. We have an appointment with his pediatrician tomorrow for a consultation and will discuss behavioral therapist and what ever else he needs. Thanks again for your thoughts.

 

The only other thing I can say is that you are allowing him to manipulate your emotions. You got upset, which he found humorous or responded to in humor. You gave him control when you got upset. You need to try to stay calm, talk calmly, no matter what (much easier said than done) and follow through with that two weeks no matter what. I hope you can get a consult to someone who can help you find the resources you need because so much depends on where he is on the spectrum. :grouphug:

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The only other thing I can say is that you are allowing him to manipulate your emotions. You got upset, which he found humorous or responded to in humor. You gave him control when you got upset. You need to try to stay calm, talk calmly, no matter what (much easier said than done) and follow through with that two weeks no matter what. I hope you can get a consult to someone who can help you find the resources you need because so much depends on where he is on the spectrum. :grouphug:

 

:iagree: And so much depends on that paediatrician as well. I do not have a lot of faith in paediatricians or general doctors, they are often misinformed. I hope yours is good and refers you to a good team of people who know what they're doing. If s/he does not refer you to a child psychologist who specializes in developmental disorders or does not refer you to a behaviour modification therapist, then please contact your nearest Autism Society and speak with them. You are not alone in your struggle, many have walked this path before you and can help direct you to services in your area. :grouphug:

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:grouphug:

 

My almost 13 year old has Asperger's. He can get defiant when he doesn't want to do something. We have struggled, although not to the extent you are struggling.

 

He simply doesn't "get" how he comes across. He doesn't understand why I get so upset when he is disrespectful. We have had to do a couple of things that have helped......we talk a lot about how we come across even when we aren't aware.....this is an on-going conversation over several YEARS! and we talk about how we are perceived when we say or do X,Y, or Z. Immediate "your facial expressions" or "the way you just responded" are NOT ok and here it why have had to happen almost daily as well.

 

The other thing we have done is to be very hands on, right there when he needs to do something. Telling him to "pick up toys" is arbitrary to him.....define toys, what about the ones I have in the rows I already want them in, where do I put them, I already have them "sorted" in my mind and you want me to pick them up?????

 

Legos are a particular problem in this area! :lol:

 

I have to BE THERE and help him work out in his logic what I am asking and where we can put them, etc.....

 

I really hope you find some answers tomorrow. It is a long road and several book readings did help some, but we needed things that worked specifically with our child.

 

Dawn

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thank you for all your suggestions. My ds is very involved. He disrespects us both. We had an incident this morning. He is laughing when we get upset with him. I have taken the computer for 2 weeks and all he says is we are ruining his life. My husband doesn't want me to homeschool him anymore because of his behavior. We have an appointment with his pediatrician tomorrow for a consultation and will discuss behavioral therapist and what ever else he needs. Thanks again for your thoughts.
Not to criticize your discipline, but two weeks seems like a long time, and he might not even remember the specific reason why you took away his computer privledges. Plus, if he's already lost computer privledges for two weeks, then a kid might think "what's the point?" of behaving for those two weeks. I'm all for consequences to behavior and I'm not suggesting that you back down on the computer use at this point just because of his continued bad behavior. But for the future, I'd suggest you and your husband find a discipline method that takes less than two weeks. I agree with specialmama's and other people's suggestion to look at behavior modification techniques--and it's great that you are going to discuss this with your pediatrician and look at behavioral therapists and whatever else he needs. Hang in there!!
Have you read my above response? If he is mentally 4 years old, this is normal. It is normal for a child with autism to get "hooked" on emotions because they don't understand other people's emotions. They like the reaction they get, similar to learning how a word "cookie" gets them a cookie. It's simple cause and effect. Don't get upset at him because he does this, he probably can't help it. My son used to laugh when someone cries, and he used to hit his sister in order to maker her cry.... but it was not malicious, it was because he does not understand other people's emotions. We have extinguished this behaviour, he does not do this anymore because we have learned to not have reactions to undesirable behaviour. Have you read any books about autism? Have you been to a national autism conference? Have you seen the movie Temple Grandin? Please find out all you can about this, because I do not believe your son is willingly disrespecting you. There are other proven methods of helping him. :grouphug: Hugs to you.

I did read your post and I wanted to ask you some questions without de-railing the thread. Background on me: I'm not the mother of a child with autism, but I have been the mother of children at the mental age of four--because they were four. I also have a BIL on the Autism spectrum, and I've read lots about autism. I have a child with dyslexia and some language processing problems, and I've had to correct him for smiling and laughing at inappropriate times too. So...with all that in mind here's my question for you.

 

Why not discipline? Isn't behavior modification a form of discipline, along with other things? If her son does something because he likes the reaction he gets, then directly linking his inappropriate behavior to a reaction he does not likes might stop the behavior. He has some concept of consequences if he does these things to produce a certain reaction. Even if her son was only at the mental age of four, (which I don't know if he is or not) we expect four year olds to treat their parents and the people around them decently. The mom is reduced to tears daily. That's sad. She used the term "autism spectrum" which is a term I hear people often apply to higher functioning forms of autism, (and he's using the computer which indicates some higher functioning to me.) The op wrote that she needs to "regain her son's respect"--and the word "re-gain" implies that she had her son's respect at one time. If she had his respect at one time, then it seems he is capable of it. I'm just kind of curious about what you think discipline is and why you don't think it's appropriate for people with autism?

Edited by merry gardens
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Not to criticize your discipline, but two weeks seems like a long time, and he might not even remember the specific reason why you took away his computer privledges. Plus, if he's already lost computer privledges for two weeks, then a kid might think "what's the point?" of behaving for those two weeks. I agree with specialmama's suggestion to look at behavior modification techniques. I'm all for consequences to behavior and I'm not suggesting that you back down on the computer use at this point just because of his continued bad behavior. But for the future, I'd suggest you and your husband find a discipline method that takes less than two weeks. I too, agree with this.

 

I did read your post and I wanted to ask you some questions without de-railing the thread. Background on me: I'm not the mother of a child with autism, but I have been the mother of children at the mental age of four--because they were four. I also have a BIL on the Autism spectrum, and I've read lots about autism. I have a child with dyslexia and some language processing problems, and I've had to correct him for smiling and laughing at inappropriate times too. So...with all that in mind here's my question for you.

 

Why not discipline? Isn't behavior modification a form of discipline, along with other things? If her son does something because he likes the reaction he gets, then directly linking his inappropriate behavior to a reaction he does not likes might stop the behavior. He has some concept of consequences if he does these things to produce a certain reaction. Even if her son was only at the mental age of four, (which I don't know if he is or not) we expect four year olds to treat their parents and the people around them decently. The mom is reduced to tears daily. That's sad. She used the term "autism spectrum" which is a term I hear people often apply to higher functioning forms of autism, (and he's using the computer which indicates some higher functioning to me.) The op wrote that she needs to "regain her son's respect"--and the word "re-gain" implies that she had her son's respect at one time. If she had his respect at one time, then it seems he is capable of it. I'm just kind of curious about what you think discipline is and why you don't think it's appropriate for people with autism?

 

Thank you for the info about your background, I was thinking I should do the same. I am continually learning and taking courses and attending workshops. I do not know it all but I know enough to be helpful in most cases. I'm not a psychologist, but I have taken psychology in Uni. When I lived in Toronto I took advantage of the Geneva Centre for Autism, which is world known for their autism symposiums, conferences and training. My dh and I both took courses which have resulted in several certificates: Hanen "More Than Words", ABA/IBI, Floortime, Pecs, and just last year we took training from the University of California, Santa Barbara in PRT (Pivotal Response Treatment or Therapy) and are in the process of having our therapy sessions videod and sent to CA and scored by the team there. We are working towards "fidelity" in PRT, which pretty much means we've met their strict grading criteria for following this research-based and proven method of intervention. We have also attended many (probably hundreds) of 6+ week non-certificable workshops and seminars for autism therapies and behaviour modification. Our son was 2 years old and had therapists (ABA, psychology, OT, speech) over to the house every day, Mon-Fri, 8-4pm. The sessions I did not watch through our 2-way mirror, I recorded or sat in on. He is now almost 10 so that's 8 years of being very involved with these people and continuing my own education in the field. I am more than qualified to be a behaviour therapist but choose to put my eggs in the homeschooling basket instead. I want to work on my son, not other people's kids. No offence intended. ;)

 

So, here's the thing: it is a spectrum. This is why I asked the OP what the psychologists have said about his cognitive age/abilities. His laughing and mocking suggest to me a much younger age and possibly the inability to be empathetic at this point. People with autism learn differently. For example, I had no problems spanking my typical dd for deliberate defiance when she was 4. My son? No way on this green earth. I just know that he is incapable of making the connection between his behaviour and the consequence. It is like spanking a baby for crying: it serves no purpose and I'd then be crying because in most circles that is called abuse. If the person doesn't understand, what must you do? You must HELP them understand. This is done by not giving attention, redirection, reward systems for good behaviour, social stories, etc. This is just a parenting style, but is proven to work especially good for kids with autism.

 

As for him having previously respected her, I'd respectfully challenge that. Without knowing them personally, I'd be willing to bet that she felt respected before, and now she does not. I would not assume that he did respect her before, but that something (his behaviour) has her taking this personally and attaching an ill-fitting label to the real problem. My son is a computer whiz also, and speaks 14 different languages, all self-taught, but it does not mean he has the cognitive ability to understand the unseen ideas (love, courage, honesty, respect) or other people's emotions and reactions. These things are very difficult for people on the spectrum. People with autism often have marked differences in all skill sets; they could be brilliant in building working cranes using Legos, or show savant abilities in playing Beethoven flawlessly on any given instrument, but they may be completely unable to understand why their sister is crying when she fell down.

 

As for the mom here, I'd wonder why she is taking it personally. What she describes is a typical child with autism who is behaving as most would without behaviour modification. I would want to know if she is well rested, if she gets regular respite, if she has a support system, etc. Dealing with a child with autism is more difficult than caring for any other special needs child. I remember seeing the research for this at an autism conference and was simply astounded. Parents MUST take time for a weekly getaway, a dinner out and a movie. They MUST take daily time for themselves (a bath, a walk, etc.) and they MUST have a support system. If they do not, the future is grim for that family. Burnout, depression, desperation, divorce... it happens in staggering amounts. At that particular conference I attended, each parent was challenged to follow through with their respite. Even when you don't feel tired or too tired to go out, we must. We simply must. Similar to an airline stewardess instructing parents that if the masks come down, to apply it to yourself first, our own mental health must be a priority if we are to help our children.

 

Perhaps you could lump behaviour modification under the big umbrella of discipline, but that is a whole other can of worms; I would not have the time to debate the psychological or sociological proponents of BM vs. discipline at this time. Suffice it to say that discipline can be vast and varied and may not relate to the infraction (it may not be natural; ie: break a glass on purpose and you're grounded) and bm is based on operant conditioning. It replaces undesirable behaviour with more appropriate behaviour using positive reinforcement. Yes, negative can be used, but with kids on the spectrum it has not proven as effective as positive reinforcement. Goals are always measurable with Behaviour Modification, and techniques such as chaining, backwards chaining, prompting, etc., can be used in order for the child to be most successful.

 

I'm not a professional, even though I could be, and I do not know this family in person, but several things she says allow me to believe that this boy does not understand what is happening, and the fact that she's crying every day based on something that is the autistic norm, I'd say she needs a break, some support and a fresh perspective each morning. But most importantly, she needs a trained person to come along side their family and implement a behaviour modification system for this behaviour.

 

Again, hugs to you OP. I know it's a challenge, but there are well researched answers out there. :grouphug:

 

ETA: sorry Merry, I meant to mention that because all kids are different on the spectrum, I do not mean that discipline will not work with all the kids who have an ASD. Higher functioning kids, for example, could understand a simple explanation of what is expected of them. As for the other kids who are not high functioning, some could understand simple consequences, natural consequences, especially for infractions that are visual and concrete ~ not the unseen ideas. For more, social stories would work. For most (if not all) BM would work. I should think in the OP's case, a good social story with pictures (read several times a day) and a reward system in place will work wonders. PRT's Self Management intervention would be ideal.

Edited by specialmama
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WOW thank you ladies for your thoughts and idea. They are all awesome and I am glad to hear I am not alone in this. Do any of you have some suggestions as to what book would help me learn more how to respond to this type of behavior? That would be great. My son is high functioning and does realize what he says and does at times, he really wants a reaction and unfortunately I am giving him the response he is looking for, so I definitely have to change my response. thanks again for all the wonderful responses, I really needed to read them and I will pass them off for my ds to read, he needs to read them too. Thanks again and looking forward to hearing some thoughts of what you would recommend to read.

Thanks

Lilly

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WOW thank you ladies for your thoughts and idea. They are all awesome and I am glad to hear I am not alone in this. Do any of you have some suggestions as to what book would help me learn more how to respond to this type of behavior? That would be great. My son is high functioning and does realize what he says and does at times, he really wants a reaction and unfortunately I am giving him the response he is looking for, so I definitely have to change my response. thanks again for all the wonderful responses, I really needed to read them and I will pass them off for my ds to read, he needs to read them too. Thanks again and looking forward to hearing some thoughts of what you would recommend to read.

Thanks

Lilly

 

You are welcome. It is hard but you are assuredly NOT alone! I would start with Engaging Autism by Dr. Greenspan. He was (he unfortunately passed on) a giant in the autism community. It is important for you son to know as well, that he is not alone. The world is scary for him, but it is possible for him to learn coping mechanisms that will help him deal with the demands this world puts on him. I'd recommend your whole family, ds too, to watch Temple Grandin. She was the first to give voice about what living with autism is like.

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I only have a few minutes, as we're off to church quite soon, but I just HAVE to chime in here in support of specialmama. My son is on the high functioning end of the spectrum, and he does understand the concept of respect. He can even behave in a respectful manner IF he truly has respect for a person--he is entirely incapable of faking it, however. (At this point. We're working on it...lol. We don't call it "respect", though, we call it "courtesy". You can behave in a courteous manner even toward people you don't respect, because your behavior can be an expression of what kind of guy YOU are, rather than of how you feel about the other person. Since he is a very literal kind of guy, this works better.) But true respect is earned, not demanded, even (or maybe particularly) with kids on the spectrum.

 

Autistic kids are very blunt. They don't "get" the nuances of human social interaction. They can't "read" it (at least, not until they are explicitly taught to, and then very imperfectly), and they can't "speak" it. They often have little understanding of, or control over, their own emotional reactions, and they generally have even less understanding of other people's emotional states. It is entirely possible that your son does not even realize you are upset. Yes, you may be giving all sorts of indicators to that effect, such as raising your voice, gesticulating emphatically, and bursting into tears, but these kinds of things might not carry any particular "meaning" to your son. He might even associate them with the wrong meaning. It's possible (and I don't know your son) that he thinks you're joking, and that's why he laughs. Punishing a child who can't "read" emotions for not responding to them appropriately is a lot like punishing a child who is blind for not reading and following printed instructions correctly. It doesn't do any good, and it can severely damage the relationship.

 

More later. Must run.

 

ETA: I meant to also mention that laughing can be kind of a nervous reaction for some people, especially in confusing, stressful situations. It isn't necessarily an indication of disrespect.

Edited by MamaSheep
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I only have a few minutes, as we're off to church quite soon, but I just HAVE to chime in here in support of specialmama. My son is on the high functioning end of the spectrum, and he does understand the concept of respect. He can even behave in a respectful manner IF he truly has respect for a person--he is entirely incapable of faking it, however. (At this point. We're working on it...lol. We don't call it "respect", though, we call it "courtesy". You can behave in a courteous manner even toward people you don't respect, because your behavior can be an expression of what kind of guy YOU are, rather than of how you feel about the other person. Since he is a very literal kind of guy, this works better.) But true respect is earned, not demanded, even (or maybe particularly) with kids on the spectrum.

 

Autistic kids are very blunt. They don't "get" the nuances of human social interaction. They can't "read" it (at least, not until they are explicitly taught to, and then very imperfectly), and they can't "speak" it. They often have little understanding of, or control over, their own emotional reactions, and they generally have even less understanding of other people's emotional states. It is entirely possible that your son does not even realize you are upset. Yes, you may be giving all sorts of indicators to that effect, such as raising your voice, gesticulating emphatically, and bursting into tears, but these kinds of things might not carry any particular "meaning" to your son. He might even associate them with the wrong meaning. It's possible (and I don't know your son) that he thinks you're joking, and that's why he laughs. Punishing a child who can't "read" emotions for not responding to them appropriately is a lot like punishing a child who is blind for not reading and following printed instructions correctly. It doesn't do any good, and it can severely damage the relationship.

 

More later. Must run.

Thank you so very, very much for writing that part about respect and courtesy!!!!!

 

Respect is something I have struggled with regarding my MIL. I feel guilty because I know I should respect her, but I don't. At least I don't feel like I respect her the way I'd like to respect her--but that's because she doesn't do the things I expect from a respectable person. I have written here about BIL and some of the family dynamics, but I try not to post too much detail about my MIL. (Perhaps that's out of respect?) I know I'm writing to some wonderful mamas here with autistic children, but not every autistic child has a great mom. My MIL has some issues that are completely separate from her autistic child. Stories from her and other family members indicate she had those issues long before she had children. Anyway, I recently realized that I have a great deal of resentment against her for the way she treats my dh, our family and me. I know I need to let go of the resentment, and I'm working on that. It didn't seem that resentment and respect could peacefully co-exist. But... if respect is defined as simply being courteous, then that's something I can do--and I already do that for the most part. Yeah!!

 

I'm not on the spectrum, but even non-Autistic people can have problems understanding abstract concepts like "respect" sometimes! I can perform the behaviors expected of me, but emotions just don't happen on command. People who are not on the spectrum can also have problems other abstract concepts like love and empathy for other people too. (I know my MIL thinks she loves my dh but it really doesn't show.) Sometimes when I read about autism, it seems to me like--while I recognize there is something different about the autistic mind--people with autism are perhaps a little bit more extreme versions of the rest of us.

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Thank you for the info about your background, I was thinking I should do the same. I am continually learning and taking courses and attending workshops. I do not know it all but I know enough to be helpful in most cases. I'm not a psychologist, but I have taken psychology in Uni. When I lived in Toronto I took advantage of the Geneva Centre for Autism, which is world known for their autism symposiums, conferences and training. My dh and I both took courses which have resulted in several certificates: Hanen "More Than Words", ABA/IBI, Floortime, Pecs, and just last year we took training from the University of California, Santa Barbara in PRT (Pivotal Response Treatment or Therapy) and are in the process of having our therapy sessions videod and sent to CA and scored by the team there. We are working towards "fidelity" in PRT, which pretty much means we've met their strict grading criteria for following this research-based and proven method of intervention. We have also attended many (probably hundreds) of 6+ week non-certificable workshops and seminars for autism therapies and behaviour modification. Our son was 2 years old and had therapists (ABA, psychology, OT, speech) over to the house every day, Mon-Fri, 8-4pm. The sessions I did not watch through our 2-way mirror, I recorded or sat in on. He is now almost 10 so that's 8 years of being very involved with these people and continuing my own education in the field. I am more than qualified to be a behaviour therapist but choose to put my eggs in the homeschooling basket instead. I want to work on my son, not other people's kids. No offence intended. ;)

 

So, here's the thing: it is a spectrum. This is why I asked the OP what the psychologists have said about his cognitive age/abilities. His laughing and mocking suggest to me a much younger age and possibly the inability to be empathetic at this point. People with autism learn differently. For example, I had no problems spanking my typical dd for deliberate defiance when she was 4. My son? No way on this green earth. I just know that he is incapable of making the connection between his behaviour and the consequence. It is like spanking a baby for crying: it serves no purpose and I'd then be crying because in most circles that is called abuse. If the person doesn't understand, what must you do? You must HELP them understand. This is done by not giving attention, redirection, reward systems for good behaviour, social stories, etc. This is just a parenting style, but is proven to work especially good for kids with autism.

 

As for him having previously respected her, I'd respectfully challenge that. Without knowing them personally, I'd be willing to bet that she felt respected before, and now she does not. I would not assume that he did respect her before, but that something (his behaviour) has her taking this personally and attaching an ill-fitting label to the real problem. My son is a computer whiz also, and speaks 14 different languages, all self-taught, but it does not mean he has the cognitive ability to understand the unseen ideas (love, courage, honesty, respect) or other people's emotions and reactions. These things are very difficult for people on the spectrum. People with autism often have marked differences in all skill sets; they could be brilliant in building working cranes using Legos, or show savant abilities in playing Beethoven flawlessly on any given instrument, but they may be completely unable to understand why their sister is crying when she fell down.

 

As for the mom here, I'd wonder why she is taking it personally. What she describes is a typical child with autism who is behaving as most would without behaviour modification. I would want to know if she is well rested, if she gets regular respite, if she has a support system, etc. Dealing with a child with autism is more difficult than caring for any other special needs child. I remember seeing the research for this at an autism conference and was simply astounded. Parents MUST take time for a weekly getaway, a dinner out and a movie. They MUST take daily time for themselves (a bath, a walk, etc.) and they MUST have a support system. If they do not, the future is grim for that family. Burnout, depression, desperation, divorce... it happens in staggering amounts. At that particular conference I attended, each parent was challenged to follow through with their respite. Even when you don't feel tired or too tired to go out, we must. We simply must. Similar to an airline stewardess instructing parents that if the masks come down, to apply it to yourself first, our own mental health must be a priority if we are to help our children.

 

Perhaps you could lump behaviour modification under the big umbrella of discipline, but that is a whole other can of worms; I would not have the time to debate the psychological or sociological proponents of BM vs. discipline at this time. Suffice it to say that discipline can be vast and varied and may not relate to the infraction (it may not be natural; ie: break a glass on purpose and you're grounded) and bm is based on operant conditioning. It replaces undesirable behaviour with more appropriate behaviour using positive reinforcement. Yes, negative can be used, but with kids on the spectrum it has not proven as effective as positive reinforcement. Goals are always measurable with Behaviour Modification, and techniques such as chaining, backwards chaining, prompting, etc., can be used in order for the child to be most successful.

 

I'm not a professional, even though I could be, and I do not know this family in person, but several things she says allow me to believe that this boy does not understand what is happening, and the fact that she's crying every day based on something that is the autistic norm, I'd say she needs a break, some support and a fresh perspective each morning. But most importantly, she needs a trained person to come along side their family and implement a behaviour modification system for this behaviour.

 

Again, hugs to you OP. I know it's a challenge, but there are well researched answers out there. :grouphug:

 

ETA: sorry Merry, I meant to mention that because all kids are different on the spectrum, I do not mean that discipline will not work with all the kids who have an ASD. Higher functioning kids, for example, could understand a simple explanation of what is expected of them. As for the other kids who are not high functioning, some could understand simple consequences, natural consequences, especially for infractions that are visual and concrete ~ not the unseen ideas. For more, social stories would work. For most (if not all) BM would work. I should think in the OP's case, a good social story with pictures (read several times a day) and a reward system in place will work wonders. PRT's Self Management intervention would be ideal.

Thank you for sharing all that! :) LOL, I prefer to work on my own children and myself rather than other people and their children too. ;) I enjoy these discussions here and find them especially helpful because they are a chance to both share what I've learned, (thus reinforcing it further for me) and they help me process what's going through my mind and learn from others too.

 

I would say that people in general, (and not simply people with autism), do better with positive reinforcement over negative correction. The word "discipline" often is used as a negative, but I don't see appropriate discipline as a negative thing. Its root comes from the Latin word for disciple. Discipline can refer to teaching and training. I agree that the goal is to help them understand and to produce desirable behavior. Ultimately, my goal in raising my children is to teach them to be self-disciplined, (and in order to teach that I need to be self-disciplined.)

 

I know that there is something different about autism, and yet I keep coming back to the idea that people with autism are first and foremost people--and they may not be all that different from the rest of us.

 

Thanks to everyone for this enlightening discussion! :grouphug:

Edited by merry gardens
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Thank you so very, very much for writing that part about respect and courtesy!!!!!

 

Respect is something I have struggled with regarding my MIL. I feel guilty because I know I should respect her, but I don't. At least I don't feel like I respect her the way I'd like to respect her--but that's because she doesn't do the things I expect from a respectable person. I have written here about BIL and some of the family dynamics, but I try not to post too much detail about my MIL. (Perhaps that's out of respect?) I know I'm writing to some wonderful mamas here with autistic children, but not every autistic child has a great mom. My MIL has some issues that are completely separate from her autistic child. Stories from her and other family members indicate she had those issues long before she had children. Anyway, I recently realized that I have a great deal of resentment against her for the way she treats my dh, our family and me. I know I need to let go of the resentment, and I'm working on that. It didn't seem that resentment and respect could peacefully co-exist. But... if respect is defined as simply being courteous, then that's something I can do--and I already do that for the most part. Yeah!!

 

I'm not on the spectrum, but even non-Autistic people can have problems understanding abstract concepts like "respect" sometimes! I can perform the behaviors expected of me, but emotions just don't happen on command. People who are not on the spectrum can also have problems other abstract concepts like love and empathy for other people too. (I know my MIL thinks she loves my dh but it really doesn't show.) Sometimes when I read about autism, it seems to me like--while I recognize there is something different about the autistic mind--people with autism are perhaps a little bit more extreme versions of the rest of us.

 

I'm glad someone found it helpful. :) I can definitely say that having an autistic son has helped me learn to be more specific and clear. People often use terms like "respect" and "courtesy" interchangeably, but they really are not the same thing. Respect is an internal factor; it's how you feel or think about someone. It's not something that can really be evaluated, or measured, or even directly detected really, by an outside person. Courtesy, on the other hand, is an external factor. It's a set of verbal expressions, and facial movements, and actions that we go through in order to help other people be more comfortable around us, and so that we are not disruptive to the smooth functioning of the household, class, grocery store, etc. One is an external thing you can actually get some control over. Feelings are more complicated.

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Thank you everyone for the fabulous posts it is extremely helpful. I will definitely read the book by Greenspan. Also thank you so much for the post on respect and courtesy, it is so very true. Thank you again and will keep posting how it works out at the doctors and also my new approach so that I can help my son get through this particular time he is going through and help him understand better.

Thanks

Lillian

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Here are a few things that have helped me a lot with behavior management.

 

Imagine the brain as a computer, just for the sake of discussion, and imagine that it has three different operating systems installed. The most basic operating system focuses on the most basic human needs--food, shelter, excretion, safety, emotional stability, and so forth. We'll call that Operating System 1 (OS1). The next operating system, which we'll call OS2, is a little more developed. It manages "applications" that have to do with things like the accumulation and management of resources, personal comfort (as opposed to just survival), health, a basic sense of "fairness". The third operating system (OS3) is even more advanced. It manages things that are more abstract, like self-esteem, societal position, independence, true morality (as opposed to mere "fairness), and love and respect for others.

 

All of these operating systems are installed on the "computer" at the same time. For most of us, OS1 runs quietly and smoothly in the background and we don't often have to think about it much. It's that thing that puts up a little "warning box" on the "screen" in our minds that reminds us we need to use the bathroom, or it's time to start thinking about making dinner because we're hungry. But OS1 has an important safety mechanism. If it has a major malfunction, it shuts down EVERYTHING else in both of the other operating systems, and puts your whole mind and body to work fixing the problem. That's because it's the operating system that deals with basic survival, and it doesn't really matter how good your self-esteem is if you're lying dead in the gutter because you forgot to eat. So extreme hunger, as an example, will shut down the whole system and focus the mind ONLY on finding food, and not much else. If an immediate threat is detected, it flashes DANGER!!! across the screen in six-inch letters, crashes all applications that are running, and puts your system in "fight, flight, or freeze" mode. You run, and you don't think about it. Or you lash out at the thread. Or you go numb and freeze because motion attracts preditors. You don't THINK about it, you just DO it. Adrenaline surges, your breathing changes, and you're just THERE. And you're not worrying about calling the library to see if they have the book you want at the same time, because that operating system shut down. Or, if you've really gotta pee, nothing else much matters more than finding a restroom. Make sense? That's OS1. Its motivation is to get the immediate survival-level (and a couple of things slightly above that, but not much) need met. Get the need met. Get the need met. Meet that need. Now. The need. I need. Fill the need.

 

OS2, on the other hand, is something we think about more often. This is where we want people to like us, we want to have cool stuff, to be entertained, to have wonderful sticky, sugary treats (eating for enjoyment as opposed to just eating to make the hunger go away). This is the level where the "carrot and stick" can be motivating. "If-then" reasoning runs on OS2. IF you do your homework THEN you can have a Twinkie, or half hour of video games, or whatever reward). IF you don't do your homework THEN you will have extra chores, or lose computer privileges, or whatever punishment. This operating system loves to aquire "things" and impress people. (OS1 doesn't care if you're impressed, or even if you like it. It just wants to find the fridge, or the bathroom, or a nice quiet place where it's safe, or to defeat the "enemy".)

 

OS3 runs the really high level software. It cares how we feel about ourselves. Things like morality, creativity, independence, purpose. OS3 tends to be largely self-motivated. It does things just for the joy of doing them, or because it's the "right" thing to do, or because it will make someone we love very happy. It loves abstract ideas, and learning and making the world a better place.

 

Now. Here's the key I've learned about these "operating systems" that has helped immensely with behavior management. My response to my child's behavior needs to work on the same "operating system" that the behavior is running on. In other words, the solution has to run on the same system as the problem. If the solution is on a different system, it's not going to meet up with the problem and fix it. If I give a response that works on a different operating system, especially one of a higher level that that on which the child is currently running, it will probably have no discernable effect (though it might cause the functionality of the whole "computer" to become even more disrupted, which is really counter-productive). This is especially true of OS1-type behavior. If my child is very hungry, or tired, or needs to use the bathroom, it will do me no good to offer a reward, or threaten a punishment. Until that very basic need is met, OS2 can't kick in and let us operate at that level. And telling him how good he will feel about himself if he complies (OS3-level thinking) doesn't even register on his radar. Trying to "fix" OS1 behavior by using an OS3 response just doesn't work. Ever. By the same token, if my child has an OS3 need, sending him to use the bathroom isn't going to fix it.

 

It can take some practice to be able to accurately diagnose which operating system has the problem running on it, but taking the time to learn to figure it out can make a real difference in managing behavior. Speaking in inappropriately sweeping generalities, most kids don't really get their OS3 up and running until their teens, or even early adulthood. Very small infants operate mostly on OS1. And kids in between those life stages operate largely on OS2. BUT, any child can switch levels at any moment. Stress will often cause kids (and adults, really) to drop down to a lower level of operation. (And autistic kids frequently operate under enormous stress loads, much of which we don't necessarily "see" or understand.)

 

Generally speaking, though, a child who is philosophizing is operating on OS3 (or at least trying to figure out how to boot it up). A child who is wheedling and trying to negotiate a "deal" is operating in OS2. A child who is having an emotional breakdown, or is obsessing irrationally over something, is operating in OS1.

 

If you ask a child to do something, and they start talking about the meaning of life, and how does the thing you asked them to do fit into the meaning of life, often they're looking for a little bit of OS3 feedback and guidance, and just telling them how good they will feel when it's done, or how much it means to you that they are in your family and willing to pitch in and help, will get you cheerful, instantaneous cooperation. But if you offer an incentive or threaten a punishment, they will be offended and hurt that you were unwilling to engage them at that higher level of function and might become pouty and uncooperative. If you have a child who is functioning at this level (and it's been my experience that autistic children can have rather unexpected spurts of this), often the best approach is to explain what the end product needs to be, and give a deadline for it to happen, but then allow the child a great deal of freedom as to how and when it gets done. It shows your confidence in them as a person, and a child operating in OS3 will really appreciate this. (If they don't follow through, it's time to try an OS2 approach...lol. And it does take some practice and false starts before they really get this OS going properly. That's what we call "normal".)

 

If you ask a child to do something, and they ask what's in it for them, or start trying to negotiate the details, then you're looking at a child who is operating in OS2. They're not necessarily trying to be manipulative or obnoxious, it's just the level their brain is functioning on. Often if you calmly and cheerfully establish a mutually agreed upon reward for compliance (and often it's a good idea to offer a choice of two or three rewards and let the child choose which one to work toward), and perhaps a negative consequence if (reasonable!) expectations are not met, the child will get right on that task. (Most kids, and especially autistic ones, work better for rewards than for punishments. Some autistic kids, like my ds, don't seem to "process" punishments normally, and in that case they REALLY are not effective.) They feel that you see them as a rational human being, and they feel they've struck a grown-up bargain, and when you follow through on the agreed upon bargain, they respect you for it. If you try to tell this child how good the sense of accomplishment will feel when it's done, they will probably be disgusted and think you're trying to pull something over on them, and it's "not fair" of you to ask them to do something for nothing. They want a fair swap--their cooperation for 10 minutes extra at bedtime, or one chance to try to beat you at a game of checkers, or six M&M's. Whatever. They just want to be taken seriously.

 

(continued...)

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(...continuing...)

 

If you ask a child to do something, and they have a complete come-apart, what you are facing is a child who is operating in OS1. The only thing to do at that point is to figure out what that basic underlying "NEED" is that is not being met, and find a way to meet it. Then everyone can calm down and discuss the situation rationally. So if the child is very tired, put her down for a nap and then try again later. One of the trickiest ones is when you're asking the child to a task that pushes them far enough outside their "comfort zone" that it triggers that fight/flight/freeze response. And a LOT of autistic kids have a very oversensitive fight/flight/freeze response. This is one reason they tend to be so rigid. when things don't go the way they expect, their adrenaline whooshes through their system, everything else blacks out, and they have that horrible feeling like they're being stalked by a sabre-tooth tiger. They don't LIKE that feeling, and their way to protect themselves from it is to cling to the routine, and to try to MAKE everything go according to their own plan. Because then they feel SAFE. If you've inadvertently triggered this fight/flight/freeze response, then offering rewards and threatening punishments is not going to make much difference. Rewards and punishments are OS2 programs, and they don't "run" on an OS1 operating system. They just don't. No matter how much we would like to. Keep in mind, too, that sometimes the "fight" part of the fight/flight/freeze response can be verbal rather than physical. It can take the form of (sometimes rational, sometimes nonsensical) arguing, endlessly, about something--anything. Sometimes arguing is just arguing, but sometimes, especially if it's being done in a kind of frenzied tone of voice, it's actually the "fight" part of the f/f/f response, and if you engage with it at all, you become the "enemy" in a fight to the death (not literal death, but utter verbal defeat). If you're lucky, the goal of the "fight" will only be "flight"--in other words, escape from the "threat". A child in this mode will NEVER have cooperation as a goal. Cooperation is only found at OS2 and higher. If you let yourself get engaged in this battle of wills as the enemy/threat, you will nearly always find that it just goes on and on and on and on until everyone is in tears. If a child is having a f/f/f response, you have to address this OS1 problem with an OS1 solution. In the case of a triggered f/f/f response, the underlying "NEEED!" is to have the threat removed--to feel safe. Adding the threat of a punishment only increases the feeling of being threatened, which intensifies the f/f/f response. If what you're dealing with is a triggered f/f/f, you will NEVER get the results you want by threatening punishment. Seriously. Never. Not ever. In fact, what you will pretty much always get is escalated "bad" behavior. More flight. More struggle to "escape". More of the perception that you are THE ENEMY and must be RESISTED!

 

 

So what do you do? Well fight/flight/freeze is such a very basic function that it's kind of binary. There are really only two slots for you to step into. None of the other possible roles register at this level. So in fight/flight/freeze, you can choose to be the "enemy", or you can choose to be the "rescuer". Those are pretty much your only options. Stepping into the "enemy" position will harm your relationship with your child. Stepping into the "rescuer" position will build trust and respect. So, as entirely nonsensical and counterintuitive as it might be, the best thing to do, in my experience, when you inadvertently trigger that response, is to be the person who removes the threat. Drop it. Tell the child that you can see this is upsetting to him, and it's ok, he doesn't have to do the thing right now. Right now we're going to work on calming down. Then we're going to take a break. And then we'll TALK about what happened. But right now, don't worry about doing the thing. It's ok. I know it sounds like you're wimping out and "giving in". And IF the child was operating at an OS2 level, that would be absolutely true. And then the child would think he could run all over you like a doormat. But IF the child is legitimately operating in OS1 mode, then you will be his absolute HERO. He will trust much more that what you ultimately want is what is best for him. And over the long term, he will become MUCH more willing to do what you ask. Because you are his HERO, and he does not want to disappoint you. This is a bit tricky, though. Because, IF you argue over it AT ALL, you have already stepped into the "enemy" role. It is EXTREMELY difficult to move from the enemy role to the rescuer role. Enemies are not to be trusted. Even if they kind of look like they're trying to rescue you, it probably is a trick to get you to let your guard down. So the rescuer role has to be your FIRST reaction as soon as the fight/flight/freeze alarm goes off. It is POSSIBLE to switch roles afterward, but I can't emphasize enough how hard it is.

 

Now, lest you think I'm suggesting that what I'm telling you is to let the child be in charge, and give in to tantrums, I'm not. That's just the first half of how to deal with a fight/flight/freeze reaction. The second half is just as important. It happens after everyone is calmed down, and we can operate in at least OS2 mode. Then we sit down with the child and say, "This thing upset you. Can you tell me what about it was upsetting? This is something I am going to need you to learn to be able to do eventually without getting upset about it. What will help the next time I need you to do this thing?" And you talk it out, and you find a solution to try. (Sometimes autistic kids can't pinpoint what about the request was so frightening, and you have to do some detective work. It might take a while. Like weeks or months. But figuring it out can really help.) Maybe next time it would help if you gave the child a 5 minute warning so they can get used to the idea before they have to actually do the task. Maybe the child is confused about exactly what the expectations are and you need to do the task together the next ten times or so until it's no longer confusing and frightening. So you talk it out, break it down into steps, and figure out something different to try the next time. But you have to wait until the switch flips for the child and that f/f/f reaction is gone, and then they've had a little time for the adrenaline to work out of their system.

 

This approach has worked absolute wonders with my son. Seriously. To the point that when he was finishing up 6th grade and the school where we used to go for some therapy services was getting his file ready to transfer over to the junior high, the nice speech pathologist in charge of that job called me up in a huge panic because she thought they'd gotten his file mixed in with the file of another child with the same name. She'd only worked with him for a year, and she knew him as a somewhat flighty but basically smart and cooperative boy. She was not around in the days when he gave his one on one technician a bloody nose and tried to stab people with a pencil. I assured her that yes, that whole thick slab of "incident reports" (there were two thick binders) really were my son's file, it was all him. She said she really couldn't believe it was even the same child, and what a long way he had come! I completely agree with her. He really IS like a whole other child. And he and I have an amazing relationship now. So I very strongly recommend giving it a try, even if it sounds a bit counter-intuitive. For us, it has really made a HUGE difference.

 

Something else that has helped has been making a conscious effort to have at least 5 positive interactions with my son for every negative interaction. In the beginning that was a real challenge because he was Mr. Negativity. He can still be pretty gloomy. But regardless of his attitude, I can smile at him (that counts as a positive interaction). I can pay him compliments (even if it's something like, "Hey, you only complained six times before you cooperated today; yesterday it was seventeen, I counted. Look how much you've improved! That's awesome! I know how hard it is for you to not complain, so that is a REAL accomplishment." Note: No sarcasm allowed. Any sarcasm counts as a negative interaction.) Or, I like your shirt. Or, I loved how you read the instructions on your math page, your voice had a lot of confidence in it. It feels kind of "fake" at first, but it makes a difference, and it becomes more natural with practice. It's a skill, kind of like playing the piano, which also feels awkward at first.

 

Anyway, give it a try and see if it helps. It has made a night and day difference around here.

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