By Ms. Kan Wong, Behavioral Consultant of Autism Partnership
One common behavioral problem for children with autism is failing to comply with their parents and caregivers’ instructions at home. Here are some tips provided by Ms. Kan Wong, AP Behavior Consultant of Autism Partnership, for parents to increase their children’s level of compliance.
- Only issue instructions with which you are willing to follow through. Following through may require you to motor your child through a task. You should also provide a meaningful consequence for compliance (e.g. rewarding him/her to play with their favorite toy whatever it is, it has to be something they like to do).
- Avoid issuing multiple instructions in a short time span. Keep instructions simple and clear from the beginning.
- Only say the instruction once and avoid repeating instructions/questions as repeating actually reinforces your child’s non-compliance. Give feedback to your child to indicate that (s)he has not listened to you.
- Provide your child with positive choices (e.g. “Do you want to have ice cream or would you like to watch a video?”). Also provide forced choices when necessary (e.g. “Do you want to take a bath now or after two minutes?”).
- Start with something easy and motivating, and something (s)he prefers to do. One example would be asking your child to eat his/her favorite snack or play with his/her favorite toy. By doing that, you will have a chance to praise and reward your child when (s)he complies. Gradually, the instructions will become less desirable while maintaining praise and rewards for compliance.
- Facilitate your child’s compliance by “sandwiching” non-preferred tasks between easy and fun tasks which helps to facilitate compliance.
- Be consistent with your expectations and provide consistent consequences. Stick strictly to the rules given to your child and follow through with them. Avoid changing the rules only because your child gets upset or angry.
- Give in Early. Sometimes, give in early before your child escalates to a more severe behavior problem is a better option if you are not ready for a battle or you know you cannot follow through the rules under some special circumstances. For example, if your child requests nicely for an ice-cream in a busy shopping mall and you know he will throw a tantrum that you are not ready to deal with if you deny his request, then give him the ice-cream when he requests nicely in the first place.
- Give your child meaningful reinforcers when (s)he complies to instructions. Parents tend to pay attention to their children when their children do not behave but forget to reward their children when they are behaving well. Always remember to praise your child for good behavior!
- When your child does not follow instructions, you should stay calm and be as neutral as possible. Sometimes children may be showing noncompliance to deliberately elicit a reaction from you, staying neutral can discourage this. Also, when you become angry, things will become more chaotic and that will usually make the situation even worse.