Confronting challenging behaviours in Autism; How to teach your child about the dangers of the outside world.


For the first few times I attempted to teach Jonathan how to cross the road, he would often not look. I understood this as a trust issue. That perhaps he did not flowers-garden-playing-pot-largetrust his eyes and his subconscious enough to judge whether it was safe to cross.

When older, my husband would every day ‘tail’ Jon to school to make sure he got there safely. As it was only a couple of empty no through roads to cross from home to school, Nick noticed that Jon would wait until there was a group of pupils crossing the road, before he would cross with them, trusting them to look and check the road for him!

Of course, there was an element of intelligence there. Why judge the road yourself when you can rely on someone else to do it! However, the scary thing was, was Jon was happy to trust strangers to look for him, and that was something we had to address quickly.

Even now, when crossing the road anywhere with Jon, I will say to him ‘check to see if it is safe to cross Jon for me.’ By using the idea of the remark so that it sounds I am asking for his help, Jon is happy then to look both ways and say, ‘safe now Mungie.’ With Jon, I learned quickly that he enjoys helping as many ASD kids do.

It gives them a sense of purpose and responsibility. After all, Jon frequently says ‘all ASD kids want is to be seen as normal by everyone else and be accepted. We don’t want to be different or even stared at. We just want to mingle in.’ I think for many, he speaks the truth, but not for all. Jon is now a lot better at crossing the road and even stops his grandmother from walking out in front of traffic!

Jon aged 7. He had a passion for tractors
Jon aged 7, he had a passion for tractors

Up until Jon was around 4 years old, I was still using reins when in a busy town or near places where there was a lot of traffic. The key years for him wanting to escape and run away was from the age of 8 to around 12 years old. After puberty, ASD kids can get a sense of their self and the world. Once he reached a particular age (around fourteen years old) Jon knew he was going to look stupid if he suddenly started shouting or running away. When I brought it to his attention once that there was a crowd forming around him in the middle of the high street, it would be enough for him to calm down. If you feel your child is in particular danger from charging out in front of traffic, then, you need to restrain them.

As Jon suffers with PDA as well as HFA, physically holding him would only make him angrier, and it is surprising how strong they can be when they are that fuelled up with anger. I would attempt to run in front of him (thank fully Jon is not a good runner, and I am still faster than him) and stop in front of him, putting my arms out to shield him further from causing harm to both of us.

The key thing to remember with any lashing out is that it will burnt itself out quickly. A child having a mobile meltdown will often stop if they think they’re not going to get anywhere. As long as you keep shielding them from running further, they will eventually stop through tiredness.

Talking in a calm and steady manner to him sometimes worked but if he was particularly angry about something (and it was usually after I said I wanted to stop for a cup of tea) his PDA would kick in and he would start rowing with me. In these scenarios, offering a bargain or a deal is a good idea. It focuses their mind to think about something else. Don’t however, say you will pay them if they calm down.

I know it is always tempting but don’t do it. You’re teaching your child that they can bully their way out of any situation and expect to get cash for it. That’s not going to stand very well when they are an adult and assuming that anyone will pay them to stop being angry.

How to turn your child's autism around and save moneyStopping them from doing something they think is playful (they are not in a temper) by jumping out of a window, can often be discouraged using role play or story telling. Using a favourite cartoon character is often effective. Making up a simple story about how this character can hurt themselves when jumping out of a window can certainly work.

The key here is to ensure the child can identify the character. They need to make a connection with it. This will help them visualise the action. If they can focus on this favourite character not doing something because it is dangerous, then they are more likely to follow this ‘new code’ of learning.

Taken from How To Turn Your Child’s Autism Around And Save Money by Michelle Hatcher

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