High Functioning Autism and Dicipline

Updated on June 08, 2010
L.T. asks from Valley Village, CA
10 answers

Hi Moms. My son has just been diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder. He is about 6 months behind on most things like his verbal skills and social skills. He is on the high functioning end of the spectrum and currently 3 years old. My question is re: dicipline. He has always been a pincher, biter and now slapper. In the past we have tried many different things to stop this behavior but now with this new diagnosis I am at a loss of what to do. I have applied for all of the free services that are offered to us and am waiting for approval so we can get him into a program but in the meantime, what do I do? My husband and I are currently unemployed and living off of our savings so I am looking for either suggestions for books to read, links to websites re: behavior and ASD, and advice on how other parents deal with this kind of issue in their own children. I would even love links to similar questions asked on this website, my searches have not come up with much but I know there is info here because I have read it in the past! Thanks Moms. You are a never ending wealth of information and support.

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answers from Los Angeles on

My nephew is high functioning autistic and my SIL and BIL use time outs in his room. It works VERY well for him. He is 11 now and it still works.

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answers from Las Vegas on

Once you get approved for funding, you will probably want to make sure that you are provided an in-home ABA program for your son. Until you are able to get that started, here are some links that you can read through to get some ideas on the hows and why of challenging behaviors and how to deal with them:


As far as books go, I really like the books Emergence: Labeled Autistic, The Way I See It, and Thinking in Pictures by Temple Grandin. Also, the following books are pretty good reads:

Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew
Understanding Autism for Dummies
The Out of Sync Child
The Out of Sync Child Has Fun
A Treasure Box of Behavioral Strategies for Individuals with Autism

Before you start spending a lot of money on books (which is very easy to do when you are desperate for answers), definitely check to see what your local library has available but I would also suggest contacting your local autism support group to see if they have a book library that you can access as well.

Good luck to you and your son.

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answers from San Diego on

Hello, I don't know where you live, but if you are in the San Diego county, there is a Regional Center. Your doctors should be able to hook you into it. They will have (free) programs for your child. These programs will help you to learn how to deal with anything. I think they should be of use to you. Our grandaughter has Down Syndrome and is getting an in-home teacher one day a week as well as one day a week in the Buddy and Me program at the preschool. She is 20 months old and has had the teacher coming to her home since she was very small. She came home from the hospital two months after her birth with a feeding tube and they were there to help my daughter with all of the baby's needs.
Good luck with your precious little boy.
K. K.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Hi L.,
Your son is lucky to have a mom who wants to know all she can about her son's special condition. Behavior always has a purpose and a payoff. What is very important and many times overlooked, is what comes before the behavior happens, called to "antecedent". What triggers the behavior? If that variable is taken away, the undesirable behavior eventually fades. Perhaps the variable needs to be modified. For example, if a child doesn't want to transition to another activity away from a preferred activity, they may complain, scream, tantrum, drop on the floor, various reactions in protest to a transition. Modify the transition to warnings, "in 5 min. we will be going grocery shopping" put on a timer so the child knows. Like another mom said, often picture cards work, like a picture of a shopping basket along with the timer. You can also make these yourself with your camera. A great forum on Facebook is called Asperger Awareness. They have daily questions and people with children as well as Aspergers and high functioning autism from all over the world making constructive and supportive comments.
Also local support groups help, there are many in So. Cal. and it is nice to feel you are not alone and isolated.
Keep strong,

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answers from Washington DC on

My son is also on the high functioning end of the spectrum , he is now 7 yrs old , fortunately we did not have to deal with the pinching , biting and slapping like you are , but we did go through the stage of him being very touchy feely with people and other kids , he used to like to stand behind kids and hold there necks (it looked like he was strangling them but he had a really loose grip) , needless to say other kids did not like this , and no matter how many times we asked him , told him to stop he wouldn't/couldn't or just was not processing what we were saying , so we used picture directions , kids on the spectrum respond very well to picture instructions , for example we drew a face on different cards with different expressions , and said "If you do this then this person feels like this" and would show the sad face. Picture cards also work for everyday things like getting dressed , brushing teeth , eating etc. It's worth paying a visit to an arts and crafts store and buying some card and making some flashcards for him.

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answers from Columbus on


One of the most helpful things that my daughters preschool teacher told me many years ago was to tell her what to do instead of what to stop doing. Put it in to an action that he can do easily, without thinking or processing information. Instead of "stop pinching" say "put your hands in your pockets" when you give active commands, kids with processing issues can actully comply, and success breeds sucess.

As far as ASD needed different tecniques for discipline, read anything by Tony Attwood and learn about how kids with ADS process information, and then know how to apply consistent concequences in a way that he can understand, given their own individual pragmatic and litteral language challenges. If your son does not understand the way you speak, you need to change it so that he does. There are many very small assumptions that we make every day about what kids with ASD understand, and if we miss one tiny link (no understanding fo instance that Dr. Shottenstien does not always give shots) will cause melt downs that are inexplicable.

Also understand what sensory expereicnes overwhelm him. If going to the Mall causes him to melt down, don't go to the mall and put him in situations where he is both comfortable and sucessful and do everything you can to keep his days positive. Find the times that he is doing the rignt thing, and point them out to him.

As for public services, they will never be enough. Public serivices (ultamately) are designed to make children functional in classrooms. You want more than that for him. Contact Easter Seals and see if they can point you in the right direction for no or low cost therapy and make as much therapy as you can get him a high priority. He will do far better in his future with early intervention.


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answers from Albany on

I liked the Ten things every child with autism wishes you knew, I cannot remember the author, possiby Ellen something? I read it while working in a special needs pre-school, looking for additional insight, it's written by a mom of an autistic child, has a very unique insight, was very useful to me except the philosophy of my school was VERY different, I tended to side with her, why I no longer work there.........it depends entirely on what YOU want for your child, your approach to discipline that is....every family is different, read everything you can and you'll slowly develop your OWN philosophy regarding what works for YOUR child....As far as getting help for your son through public means, school district, get ready to WORK, you are his only advocate, sometimes it can be an amazing battle to get him what he needs, from all those who say they are there to help....stick to your gut and don't back down....Good Luck to you, thinking about you, keep us posted!!

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answers from Los Angeles on

My girlfriend has a daughter also at the high end of the spectrum. She's started a blog related to her experiences and I'm sure she'd be willing to share information. Here is her blog address: http://www.littlebitquirky.blogspot.com/

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answers from Los Angeles on

Run, don't walk, to www.tacanow.org

EVERYTHING you need will be at this site. This is a support group for families of autism run by families of autism who have already been there and done that. The wealth of information is amazing and they provide information on how to do things on a budget as well.

This coming Sunday, June 6th, is the most favorite event of the year, a picnic at Camp James, next to Wild Rivers. This is a safe environment, so much fun, and foods galore for those on special diets as well. Check it out on the website and you can contact TACA and ask if there are any scholarships available for it.

TACA will help you work/deal with Regional Center, school districts, where to go for the ABA and other therapies, you name it.

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answers from Los Angeles on


You might want to give Sarah or Vera at HaMercaz a call. HaMercaz is Jewish Family Service's central resource for families of all faiths raising children with special needs. They offer consultation, referrals, support and wonderful programming for the whole family.
(866) 287-8030

All the best,

D. Markovic
JKidLA/Concierge Services

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