Take a Bite out of Autism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thoughts?  Did I mention BUY MY BOOK?

To read more blogs from Seth and TheFowler4Group, check out their Website (www.lookatmyeyes.com) and while you’re there, buy a copy of their book, “Look At My Eyes”.  To contact TheFowler4 Group email: info@thefowler4group.com

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3 responses to “Take a Bite out of Autism

  1. I think you’re spot on…thank you for your courage and encouragement! Somewhere along the way we seem to have lost our gumption for looking at difficult situations/behaviors square in the eyes and handling them. Maybe we don’t trust ourselves or our intuition? Maybe we’re afraid of making mistakes in how we respond? I don’t know, but for the sake of the child, we need to find that courage again – and be the parent/caregiver/teacher that they need us to be. Hats off to you and your lucky little one!

  2. Your grateful wife

    love it! This is your best post yet… refreshing honest and helpful. Only you could write this (from a father’s perspective)!!

  3. I appreciated your post, which I found through autisable. I think what you’re saying is really important, and I wholeheartedly agree. I think that another peice of the picture for some if not all kiddos with ASD is underlying health issues. Temple Grandin wrote a short little piece about this, that you may have seen. http://autismdigest.com/hidden-medical-problems-can-cause-behavior-problems/
    For my daughter, who is 4 1/2 and has ASD, I was very consistent with time outs, consequences, etc. but we really didn’t see improvements in behavior until we looked into her underlying health issues (Ex Why is her tummy so distended all of the time? ) That path can look different for each family, but for us, the Specific Carbohydrate diet coupled with stool testing and so on, gave us the keys to help her feel much better, sleep much better, and behave much better. Another layer of difficulty was peeled away when we took her in for the standard eye exam suggested for preschoolers and learned that she needed glasses. She hadn’t shown any obvious signs of having vision problems, but we’ve noticed improvements in outbursts since getting her glasses. As parents of children who can’t always fully communicated their inner world, we help our kids and ourselves when we look at all of the facets of what can be affecting their inner world.

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