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.
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!