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How to Say “No” to your Child with Autism

How to Say “No” to your Child with Autism

Children with Autism have difficulty communicating their needs and understanding what is being communicated to them. Often, this could lead to situations where they cannot have what they want, which could cause them to have a meltdown or behave inappropriately. In such cases, calmly and gently guiding the child towards better behavior, has a more impactful long-term effect than simply saying ‘no’ or scolding them. Here’s a quick guide on when to say ‘no’ to your child with Autism, and alternatives you can use instead.

Understanding Autism
Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) refers to a range of neurodevelopmental disorders that affect social, behavioral, and communicative abilities. Children with Autism tend to have trouble expressing themselves, adjusting to their social environment, and coping with changes in their routine. While Autism currently has no cure, the best Autism treatment in Hyderabad could go a long way in helping your child adjust to and function in daily life more effectively.

Saying ‘no’ to your child with Autism
It is understandable for a parent or caregiver to feel nervous about saying ‘no’. A child with Autism often cannot handle rejection well, and may break down, yell, hit, or demonstrate other inappropriate behavior. ‘No’ is also regarded as a word indicating some form of punishment, and may end up exacerbating the child’s meltdown. Having said that, it is essential to teach your child boundaries and good behavior, and saying ‘no’ is a part of that. The best Autism treatment in Hyderabad could also help your child understand boundaries better, through occupational and behavioral therapy.

An important thing to remember here, is to limit usage of the word ‘no’ unless absolutely necessary. Children with Autism learn from repetition and will equate one situation with other similar situations. The word ‘no’ represents an absolute command and your child with Autism should associate it with situations where they have to listen. For instance, you can use it when your child is trying to touch a hot stove or run out in the midst of traffic. By using it for both, serious and trivial situations, you could risk confusing your child. The child may associate the word ‘no’ with getting into serious trouble, and end up having a meltdown.

In order for your child to model good behavior by learning and for remembering the next time around, here are some alternate ways of saying ‘no’ to them.

  • Use statements that clearly explain what your child is expected to do. For instance, instead of saying ‘No, don’t eat your brother’s dessert’, you could say ‘This is your plate with your dessert. You can eat this’.
  • Provide reasons instead of just saying ‘no’. If your child with Autism wants to go to the pool, explain why they cannot, by showing them their existing schedule and pointing out what they are scheduled to do, instead of the pool.
  • Explain to the child what they need to do before they get what they want. Instead of saying ‘no’ when your child wants chips, you can say ‘First do your homework, then have a bath, and after that you can have chips’.
  • Demonstrate the behavior you’d want to see in your child. For instance, if they are lowering their head towards the plate to eat, instead of raising their hand to their mouth, demonstrate with a spoon or fork how you want them to eat instead.
  • Use pictures or other visual rules to explain to your child why you must say ‘no’. For instance, you can use cartoons or symbols to demonstrate to your child how they might get hurt from touching a hot flame or a sharp knife.
  • Praise their attempts to enact new behavior or behaviour you want to see in them. This will encourage them to do more of it.
  • Teach every member of your family to reserve the word ‘no’ only for extreme or dangerous situations. This way, your child with Autism will learn to follow this instruction at once, no matter who is saying it.

Your child with Autism may not respond well at first when you say ‘no’, but by communicating in a manner that calmly explains what you expect of them, they will learn to adjust and listen with time. Above all, remember to exercise patience and care at all times, and always reward them for good behavior with love and affection.

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