Parents of children with developmental neurodiversity, such as autism or ADHD, often report that their child’s behavior is difficult to understand and that they don’t know what to do. First, it’s essential to realize that there isn’t always a simple reason for a child’s behavior with neurodevelopmental challenges, and the reasons can vary widely. This requires understanding, patience, and a one-on-one personalized approach based on individual differences, as every child is unique.
- Take time to understand the child’s perspective and feelings. Be patient and empathize with the situation. Respect the child as an individual and acknowledge and engage with their feelings, even if you disagree, before perceiving them as a deficient, incomplete entity.
- Try to assess the situation objectively. Try to understand the underlying cause of the child’s distress. Is there a specific trigger or unmet need?
- Many children with autism thrive on routines and repetition. Establishing a predictable schedule can help provide a sense of security. Be sure to establish a daily routine and keep it regular to avoid confusing the child.
- Use clear and concise language when communicating. Avoid abstract concepts and make instructions concrete.
- Visual aids can help with communication and comprehension, so use them as much as possible.
- Sensory sensitivities are some of the most common triggers. Be aware of the child’s sensory needs and provide a supportive environment. If there is a sensory element that the child is throwing, hugging, or anything else that can calm them down, support it.
- Reinforce positive behaviors with positive feedback (It’s so cool that you’re doing –) rather than negative feedback (You shouldn’t do —).
- minimize overstimulation and minimize sensory input from the environment or child (e.g., lower your voice and use fewer words.)
- Provide acceptable alternatives or choices. This can help the child feel a sense of control.
- Remain calm and reflect on your feelings.
Remember that everyone is unique, and a strategy that works for one child may not work for another. Understanding your child’s individual needs and preferences can take time. However, the more you know your child, the more you will gain valuable insights and tailored strategies for dealing with challenging behaviors.