I’ve been doing a lot of research this week on teens and autism. Specifically, I have been searching for sites with information on discipline and dealing with the ever increasing hormonal attitude that is emerging in my thirteen year-old son.
It’s not an easy task.
There are tons of sites with information for parents of younger children, but the information for parents of older children is pretty slim.
Children with autism grow up… sometimes it feels like the world has forgotten that.
It’s not that I have a bad kid. I don’t. He’s generally well behaved and quite a joy to be around. But, he is growing up and his body is growing and hormones are a real thing.
All teenagers start to get attitude. It’s just part of life. But added to the normal teen adjustment, my son is dealing with autism… He just isn’t like every other kid out there.
He’s already had his first major grounding. He disobeyed me in regards to when he should come in from hanging out with his friend. Because he disobeyed, he was grounded from going outside for a few days. That punishment worked. He hasn’t made that mistake again. He knows that when I say a specific time, I mean it. He knows to follow that rule.
Rules are non-negotiable items. They make sense in his brain.
But my research wasn’t for rule breaking. My research has been for something even more annoying… backtalk, rudeness, mouthing off, whatever you want to call it.
The mouthiness started a while back. It almost seemed to show up like clockwork with his thirteenth birthday. It was like his body said, “Ok, it’s time… Turn on frustrating teen mode!”
I know all teens get mouthy. But most of your neurotypical kids will understand a punishment for it.
My son started mouthing off and I took away his iPad. Sounds about right as a punishment, doesn’t it?
Not for autism.
Taking away his iPad, Wii, or any other gadget did nothing. He just didn’t understand what was going on. His brain failed to connect his behavior with the punishment.
Over and over again, I have tried to provide a consequence for the rudeness… And over and over again, he has been confused and no lesson has been learned.
So I researched my little heart out this week and finally came upon some advice that I would like to share. The person I read from (and I don’t have a link because I was all over the internet) said that for an autistic brain, the punishment needs to be related to whatever the person did wrong.
Rudeness is not related to the electronics. They have nothing to do with each other.
Grounding my son from going outside when he didn’t come in on time worked because the two were related. It made sense.
Taking an iPad away for him mouthing off… it does not compute for him.
So the advice went on to say that if a child becomes rude, the parent should state clearly that rudeness is unacceptable and then stop the conversation.
I found that very interesting. And as luck would have it, I got to test the advice out today.
My son began being very rude to me this morning during his math lesson. His rudeness was bordering on being downright mean and I had had enough.
I looked up at him and I said, “I am your mother and you will not speak to me that way anymore. We will not continue until you stop being rude.”
Then I turned my attention elsewhere and completely ignored him. I don’t mean like a stop loving ignore him… I mean I just didn’t pay attention to his attitude any longer.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, but what happened was probably exactly what the person who wrote the advice knew would happen. Within five minutes of me ignoring him, my son walked over to me and said, “I’m sorry, Mommy. I didn’t realize I was being rude.”
We then talked about the reasons why what he was doing was rude, and the day pressed on smoothly.
Here’s the big takeaway…
“I didn’t realize I was being rude.”
Many kids with autism don’t understand that what they are doing in certain situations is wrong. My son had a moment today of realization. He didn’t even know what he was doing! But by me using the punishment of not talking to him when he was rude, he connected the dots! That never happened with taking away an electronic gadget.
I’m not saying, or even thinking, that he won’t be rude again. I’m just saying that we both learned something today. He learned what being rude was, at least in that moment. And I learned that if I’m going to discipline him and have it work, I need to relate the discipline to the behavior. If it’s not related, he won’t understand.
I sure hope this helps someone else out there. The day here is drawing to a close and I’m not feeling defeated. Rather, I’m feeling like I did something right. For a special needs mom, that’s pretty darn awesome!