Autism: Behavioural Tips and Strategies
Below are some tips and suggestion you might like to try to help you understand your child’s behaviour and strategies you can put in place to enable them to cope more effectively with their Autism:
This is a quick reference guide where we suggest strategies you might try for overcoming difficulties you have communicating with your child. This might be a useful resource of strategies to try if your child has been referred to the Autism team and you are waiting on an initial assessment or home or school visit.
My child does not pay attention to me when I am talking to them
- Always use your child’s name at the beginning, when you are saying something, so that they know you are talking to them.
- Make sure your child is paying attention before you ask a question or give an instruction. This might mean waiting for them to look at you or in your direction.
- Use your child's special interest, or the activity they are currently doing, to engage them. Your child will be more motivated to listen if they are interested in the activity.
My child has difficulty processing the information that is said to them.
- Reduce the amount of communication that you use when your child is showing signs of anxiety. It can be difficult for the child to process information if they have high levels of anxiety.
- Use visual supports to help them to process the information more easily.
- Speak clearly and precisely using short sentences. If there is too much information, it can lead to ‘overload’, where no further information can be processed.
- Don’t use too many questions. Children with autism may find ‘where’, ‘when’, and ‘who’ questions difficult. ‘Why’ questions may not be useful.
- Be aware of the environment that you are in. It may be affecting how much your child can process.
- Wait for your child to respond or complete the task before repeating yourself or giving further instruction. It can take up to 30 seconds for a child with autism to process information.
My child has difficulty answering open ended questions.
- Structure your questions. For example, offer options or choices rather than them having to think of the options themselves.
- Keep your questions short.
- Be specific. For example, ask “How was lunchtime?” and “How was maths?” rather than “How was your day?” which may be too broad.
- Ask only the most necessary questions. This minimises the decision-making your child has to do on a daily basis.
What can I do to develop my child’s communication skills?
- Reward and praise any spontaneous communication or appropriate behaviours that your child shows you eg “Good sharing”. By rewarding them, you are increasing the likelihood of it happening again.
- Use role play. Role play can be a great way for showing your child appropriate frameworks for social interaction and exploring how things can go wrong/what to avoid.
- Use expansions - adding one more piece of information to what your child says. For example, if they say ‘car’, you can reply ’yes, blue car’. That way you are only giving them one more piece of information to process.
- Make opportunities for your child to communicate. For example, if they want a biscuit, give them a jar or tin that is difficult to open so that they have to ask for help. Try not to always solve their issues for them. If you are singing songs with your child, pause to see if your child can sing the next part. You may need to prompt them with a sound cue.
- Support your child’s communication with visual supports. For free visual resources, click here.
- If your child has only recently started to talk, use single words to communicate with them, for example, labelling their favourite toys and foods when you are using/playing with them.
Can I do anything to our home environment to support my child’s communication?
- Provide a low arousal environment if your child is over-sensitive to noise, light, heat and/or smells. For example, limiting disruption or background noise can help the child to focus. For more on environment and surroundings, click here.
My child is reluctant to ask for help, even though I know they don’t understand.
- Check their understanding and support them with visual support or offering choices. Teach them that it is ok not to know the answer sometimes, and encourage them to ask for help.
My child always takes things I say literally.
- Avoid using irony, sarcasm, figurative language, rhetorical questions, idioms etc. If you do use them, explain what you have said and be clear about what you really mean to say.
My child hits me if they don’t want to do something I ask them to.
- Try to teach your child ways of expressing ‘no’ or ‘stop’ rather than your child using inappropriate behaviours to express their feelings.
Social Stories and comic strip conversation: Social stories and comic strip conversations are ways to help people with autism develop greater social understanding. Click here to read more.
Visuals: Many people with an ASD are thought to be visual learners, so presenting information in a visual way can help to encourage and support people's communication language development and ability to process information. It can also promote independence, build confidence and raise self-esteem. Click here to read more.
Time Lines: Visual Timetables and schedules are a good way of helping to create structure and routine, which take away uncertainty and help to make daily life more predictable for children with Autism. Click here to read more.
Transitions: Transferring from primary to secondary school (or primary to middle school, middle to secondary school) can be a stressful time for parents, carers, and the child. The following is a quick guide to what should happen when for a child with SEN who does not yet have a statement. Click here to read more. Click here to read more.
Challenging behaviour: Children with Autism can sometimes display challenging behaviours. The Autism team will gives possible reasons for these behaviours, and suggest a number of different ways of dealing with this behaviour. Click here to read more.
Apps: Stockport Occupational Therapist Tina Wood has put together a number of useful apps that parents and children might find useful. The Apps are grouped into themes helping with Autism, fine motorskills and Apps that help with calming children. Click here to see read more.
Developing Friendship: Children with autism can something find difficulty making and maintaining friendships. The autism team can look at these difficulties and suggest strategies to help your child with social skills to develop friendships.
Restrictive Diet: Often children with autism can be very fussy or faddy about the foods they eat, the Autism team can work with your child to broaden the range of foods they will eat or try.
Learning Social Skills: Children with autism can often struggle socially at home and school. The autism team can work with your child to improve their social communication and interaction and develop their social imagination.
Home Support: The autism team can do a visit at home to work on the strategies to overcome the difficulties a child may experience in the home environment.
School Support: The autism team can do a visit to school to see what the difficulties are at school and work on developing strategies which will help the child cope more effectively.