Live for the years, not for the moment: Individual behaviors may appear suddenly. But behavior patterns, they develop over time. With our kids, we have to live for the years, not the moment. So when you are pushing your child through a tantrum or through a negative behavior, when you are NOT caving in to a demand….even though you so much want to, just to have this moment end….remind yourself–The Years. Our kids take longer to learn everything. They don’t always learn things inherently from watching others–they have to be direct taught. They often do not have the skills to self-evaluate and self-correct, they have to be taught. So in those stressful moments, allow this to come to your mind–that you are doing this for the long term. And it may take a long time for your child to learn this.
Identify and document their complete skills set: You might need professional help for this, but your child needs a complete functional assessment. If the skill is beyond your child’s skill set, you teach the skill, not punish them for not having the skill.
Everyone must be on same page with skills: Any behaviorist will tell you, you must be consistent. This goes for your school team too. The IEP team must agree upon what skills the child possesses. Remember, they may not be able to apply all skills across all environments, so that must be noted. If your child has some skill discrepancies, then you should develop a plan so that they emerge in all environments. Of course our end goal is desirable behaviors across all environments!
Support your child’s team if they are following the agreed upon plan: Our kids are able to use certain discipline procedures built into IDEA. But, if your child has a behavior plan and IEP that is being implemented and is being held accountable for behaviors within their skill set….then they need to be held accountable. Look, I know many of you are rolling your eyes at the thought of your child’s IEP being implemented consistent, it is implemented, at least some of the time. While I’ll be the first to admit there is room for improvement, not every IEP is completely ignored all day, every day. Communicate with your team. Let them know that you want to work with them, that you want your child to learn personal responsibility…but without a consistently implemented IEP, it’s very difficult to do that.
Find what motivates your child: A lot of people dislike the word ‘punishment’ but I don’t. In the right context, it makes a lot of sense. Punishment doesn’t mean I hit my kid or scream at them. It means I take away screens or highly desired toys. It means we reinforce good behaviors with desired items and praise.
Don’t overthink it: Start small and start simple. Don’t make it into something so complex, that no one will implement it. Simple rewards, simple punishments.
Remember that not everything they do is related to their disability: We forget this sometimes. Not every undesirable behavior that our kids do stems from their disability. Sometimes it is age appropriate, but undesirable behavior. Skills have to be learned by all kids, not just those with disabilities. What we have to extract out is if our child will be or should be expected to take longer to master this skill, and what supports they will need in mastery.
Seek a behaviorist: Your health insurance may have options for family services or behavioral health. Your state may have wraparound services which can help with this. But if you are unable to come up with a consistent, effective plan, get help.
Take time to really understand your child. It’s important to really know what is going on inside your child’s head, because it often is very different from ours. Be a good role model to your kids and talk about your own mistakes, even if they do not learn without direct teaching. We all make bad choices and mistakes, it’s important that we learn from them.