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This post has been a long time in the making as it’s something that I struggled with for quite some time. And it’s something that I’d like to expand on in the future. Until then, let’s talk about discipline tips for children with autism or ADHD. Now, I know, I don’t talk a lot about ADHD but in recent research, I’ve found so many similarities. So, even though this post addresses autism, specifically; I believe that these tips can also be kept in mind for children with ADHD. Find more tips for parenting an autistic child.

Can you discipline a child with autism?

Nearly all parents struggle to find the right way to discipline their children, and there are some families in which discipline is lax or even non-existent.

However, when it comes to children with autism, discipline is not only important, it can be hard to implement. Parents must think of autism and discipline in different ways when thinking of how they want to approach this, and they must also be sure to ask for help if they think they are failing. It does get addressed though in some booksTop Ten Books about Autism for New Parents about parenting an autistic child.

Remember, as well, sometimes there might be something else at play. For example, if your child also has ADHD in addition to autism? Consider one of these 12 best alternatives to Adderall.

How to Discipline Children with Autism

Three important things to remember when it comes to dealing with discipline for autistic children are:

  • be positive
  • be consistent,
  • and to be timely.

What is positive discipline?

This means that the positive behaviors should be rewarded as much as possible and the negative ones should not be rewarded with a lot of attention. This is good advice for any child, but is very important for children with autism.

When children have bad moments, it is important for a parent to figure out why. They may just be acting out in a naughty manner, but they may also be experiencing tension or frustration. They could, for example, be experiencing sensory overload.

If they are frustrated, this is an excellent time to remove them from the situation and to show them breathing or relaxation techniques they should use when they feel that way to help them calm down.

It might take a while, but with some perseverance they may be able to learn to use them.

How to be consistent with discipline

When it comes to mom and dad, discipline must be consistent. That means that the punishment should come immediately following the offense. If parents lack consistency they will lack control.

The same punishments should be used each time.

If parents decide they want to use the 1-2-3 method, they have to use it every time and there has to be an outcome if they get to ‘three’. You cannot count to two and then go back to one or the child will know they can get away with things.

If a time out is the punishment after ‘three’ is reached, this has to be enforced no matter what. If not you run the risk of losing control of the moment and the situation, and the child has learned nothing positive.

Timing matters with discipline

There should be no waiting for the other spouse to get home to deal with the problem or to reprimand bad behavior, as the child may be confused when they are being punished long after the event took place.

Timing is essential.

However, it is important that both parents be equally involved in using discipline so that the child does not learn to act up in front of the parent that is known to pass the buck when these things happen.

How else do you discipline a child with autism?

Each offense should be dealt with in the same manner, as this gives the child a clear picture of what will happen when they do something that they should not be doing. Any delayed punishments will not work with a child who has autism.

It is also important for parents to remain calm.

Try to avoid yelling or out of control actions. If you’re feeling frustrated should walk away from the situation to calm down. Parenting is hard for any parent, but with the extra stress of autism, things can easily get out of control even for the best of parents.

Each child will learn about discipline in a different way, and as long as the punishments are just, immediate, and consistent, there should be some progress being made.

Dealing with autism and discipline is never easy, but with practice, you can learn to cope.

From an autistic autism mom to you

The Autism Family Guide is your shortcut to autism parenting.

How do I know?

Because friend, the resources in this guide are lifechanging.

Create routines with ease, calming strategies at your fingertips, and more.

Welcome to Voices of Special Needs Blog Hop — a monthly gathering of posts from special needs bloggers hosted by The Sensory Spectrum and The Jenny Evolution. Click on the links below to read stories from other bloggers about having a special needs kiddo — from Sensory Processing Disorder to ADHD, from Autism to Dyslexia! Want to join in on next month’s Voices of Special Needs Hop? Click here!

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Digital Product Creator at Kori at Home
Kori is a late diagnosed autistic/ADHD mom. She is currently located in Albany, NY where she is raising a neurodiverse family. Her older daughter is non-speaking autistic (and also has ADHD and Anxiety) and her youngest daughter is HSP/Gifted. A blogger, podcaster, writer, product creator, and coach; Kori shares autism family life- the highs, lows, messy, and real. Kori brings her own life experiences as an autistic woman combined with her adventures in momming to bring you the day-to-day of her life at home. Kori is on a mission to empower moms of autistic children to make informed parenting decisions with confidence and conviction.

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7 years ago

Great tips and good reminders. Discipline Is still hard for our little guy. Trying to find motivation or consequences that work even when we are out in public or in new places is the hardest. Any suggestions?

7 years ago

Our children, regardless of diagnosis, should be expected to follow the rules and have socially appropriate behavior. While the amount/type of support/intervention needed to be succesful will vary, we often fail our children by not having the expectation in the first place. Social stories, sensory tools, visuals and communication devices are all helpful, but just like “neurotypical” children, our ASD/ADHD kiddos are going to be naughty, defiant, angry, tired, etc. Sometimes, a 3 year year old is just being 3! And just like “neurotypical” children, finding motivation and consequences is going to be very individual. Instead of thinking that disciplining/teaching… Read more »