Friday, February 5, 2010

Time-Out Strategies

Yesterday, I was chatting in the hall at school with a mom (of kid with autism) about discipline and guess what? She admitted that she only disciplines her typically developing children, not her child with autism. Since this was the third conversation about disciplining kids on the spectrum in the last three days, I thought this would be a good place to discuss the ins and outs of discipline strategies.

Today, I am just going to talk about how to effectively use a "time-out" for young (1-5) children with autism. First, if your "time-out" strategy has failed in the past, change the name and place (we actually call our time-out, break time) for a fresh beginning.

Set-up your time-out chair. Whether you use a chair or a bean bag or a step, keep it consistent and easy for your child to take a break and re-group. For children with sensory issues which makes sitting more difficult, try placing a Gymnic Disc in-between the child and the chair; it will give some sensory stimulation while allowing your child to sit longer.

If your child is a visual learner take a picture of your child sitting in the time-out chair, print out the photo, and tape it to the wall just above the time-out chair. Write "Time-Out Chair" below the photo to add another support. The photo will reinforce the proper behavior and remind the child why they are taking a break.

Free the time-out area of distractions; for example: clear toys away, turn-off the Ipod or the T.V., and allow your child time to re-group, so he will be available to make better choices.

Use a visual clock with timer so your child can see how long they need to sit. Typically one minute for each year of life, but children with autism might need to practice to sit in a chair for five minutes if they are five years old. So, begin with one minute and work toward the five minute goal. Keep the clock out of reach of the child, but in visual proximity. Now that your time-out chair is set-up and ready for use, now what?

When we are discussing time-outs (or discipline in general) often parents are ones that need the rules. We can get emotional and forget that we are teaching proper behavior and explode into a fast talking, babbling fool that our children can't understand. Here are some guidelines to follow for success:

* Be patient! Re-frame the situation. For example: Your child wackes you on the head with a plastic hammer and it really hurts and all you want to do is scream and jump up and down. Instead, breath, count, leave the room for a moment; whatever it takes to calm yourself down. Remember you are modeling proper behavior.

* Get down to your kid's level! That is right— bend on down, sit on the floor, slow down your rate of speech, and in the least amount of words give them a WARNING— "No hit mommy or time-out."

* Focus on your non-verbal communication! If you want your child to know you are mad, show them mad on your face, and in the tone of your voice. Slow your rate of speech, lower your voice tone, and put on your mad face.

* Follow through! If you have given a warning and the undesired behavior continues, it is time for a time-out. No excuses, it is teaching time.
  • Sit your child in the time-out chair.
  • Explain why they are there, for example "You hit mommy."
  • Tell them to sit in the chair.
  • Set the timer for a reasonable amount of time; remember you may have to increase the time as you practice the time-out.
  • If your child gets up, return them back to the time-out chair without using any language.
  • When the timer has rung re-explain to your child the reason for the time-out.
  • Hug child and go play!
* Start young! Kids need practice and the sooner you develop a discipline plan and stick to it, the better. Be proactive, think of teaching proper behavior instead of correcting poor behavior. Remember kids with autism are FIRST KIDS so like any other child they need boundries, consquences, and understanding.


Foxxfire said...

What an excellent post! My 11 y/o son has SPD, ADHD and OCD. He hasn't been diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome but he exhibits many of the symptoms of an Aspie.
We have set up a Sensory Break Room in the house for him to use as a time-out in a positive way.
He doesn't know how to express his emotions in a healthy manner. He has outburts quite often. When this happens at home, I try to use a calm voice and tell him that he needs to go to the break room to relax and calm down. When he does this, he usually yells, mummbles, and punches his punching bag. He seems to calm down a lot quicker. Another calming effect for him is his spinning chair. He sits in it and just spins in circles.
Thanks for such a positive and important post on discipline.

Anonymous said...

We've been thinking of a punching bag for our 7 year old with Asperger's and ADHD. We just don't know where to start. You know, correct weight, brand, size, etc. Any tips?

Judy Bell said...

Great post Angela! Gives me some ideas to try for sure ;) thank you!

Nigel Whitehouse said...

The school is giving my autistic child tine out days after shew done wrong.and we told then and still doing it

Nigel Whitehouse said...

Sorry spelling gone wrong.i live in the UK my daughter is 7 and her school are giving her time out days after she's done wrong.they are not helping her and undoing everything webdo at home.we have no senco she left and she's stuck in mainstream school

Anonymous said...

I have a parent arguing this type of consequence. The parents preferred method of discipline when her student with ASD is being non-complaint, screaming, hitting, etc. is planned ignoring. Unfortunately in the school setting, that's not an appropriate response as I have other children in my classroom. I need some guidance on how to present information to this parent on my reasons. I have started time out with several visuals and 20 sec. per year of age after she has calmed down and in the right state of mind in understanding time out. I am supported by my admin and several teachers/ therapist that work with this student. The mom has pulled the student out of my class and has stated "The teacher does not respect (student's) boundaries." She is 3 years and 10 months, I am trying to build boundaries to keep her safe. Please help.
-First Year SPED teacher