The biggest differences in an autistic child compared to a “normal” child are mental age compared to physical age, and sensory issues. Even though an autistic child is physically a certain age, he or she will act like their mental age. All children progress at different speeds, but autistic and handicapped children are even slower progressing.
Disciplining a ten year old child that acts like a five year old child can pose a challenge. The most important thing to remember is: you have to discipline for the mental age, not the physical age. You have to discipline that ten year old child as if you are disciplining a five year old child.
If you know what age level you are dealing with, shouldn’t disciplining be easy? The effectiveness of your disciplining will depend on your method and the child.
How can you discipline an autistic child effectively? You will use methods of discipline effective for their mental age range. Always tell your child “no” and then explain why in terms they can understand. Remove your child from what they are doing and redirect them to something else.
If your child can understand things being “taken away” take their toys. This is for mentally older children. Some autistic children are not connected to “things” and would not notice the items disappearing. If the child is mentally older they might be accustomed to using or playing with something that you can take away.
Your child may or may not be aware of the television. If your child is aware of the television, you may want to take the privilege to watch television away. Just because this tactic works with “normal” kids, doesn’t mean it will work with yours.
Give time-outs. When your child has mastered the art of sitting, when being told to sit, he or she is old enough for time-outs. This will usually happen at an age range between 18 months and two years. Do not expect your child to sit for long periods of time. One minute per mental age will be enough of a challenge to them.
If they were doing something bad with a toy like hitting it or smacking it, show them how to use it properly. For example: My son came home from school and hit a stuffed animal. I took the toy away from him, saying “No, be nice” and pet the toy. We pretended it ran up his arm. You may want to show your child what the object is used for and how to play with it.
Disciplining an autistic child can be hard work and is trial and error. Parenting is too. Knowing your child is safe and happy is a good reward.