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Autism Moms: How Do You Discipline A Child Who Doesn’t Understand Discipline?

Let me say out of the gate, I don’t have solutions. I have questions. And as a stepparent, there’s only so much I can do to make a difference. To complicate matters more, parenting a child with special needs in two separate households is…in short…almost effing impossible.

When I went all in with my husband and his children, I knew a few things from the beginning. First, I would never be the kid’s parent. Second, I can’t fix what someone else refuses to admit is broken. What I can do is set an example and try. Try my hardest.


Autism Moms: How Do You Discipline A Child Who Doesn’t Understand Discipline?

One of our biggest issues is discipline. Our oldest daughter is autistic, but considered high functioning. She’s verbal, intelligent and loves. But…she doesn’t always understand the concept of consequences.

For a while my husband and his ex-wife tried spanking.

It was a…disaster. It created more issues than it resolved. You can’t spank a kid with autism. Contact is already a major issue in non-stressful situations, so contact during stressful situations is just a powder-keg waiting to explode.

So we regrouped.

Taking away things she enjoys playing with, limiting her favorite past times, having long discussions about the rights and wrongs.

I feel like I’m bashing my head against a freaking wall.

Case in point, this weekend while visiting family for a wedding there was a traumatic death. We discussed that when we went in their grandmother’s house we could not go down a hall or in a set of rooms. The why’s weren’t well discussed. Death is understood in terms of Mario Brothers. She insists we all simply start over at the last check point. Not very helpful in these circumstances.

So what does she do the moment we are in the house?

She heads into the room we told her not to.

Cue my internal freaking out and heading her off.

And then the arguing.

I’m looking forward to raising a strong, intelligent young woman who stands up for herself and challenges those who would put barriers in her path to greatness. But right about now it’s highly frustrating to deal with a child who wants to argue about every little thing.

I snapped at her. She disobeyed and I was done. Frazzled. Exhausted. We’ve all been there.

Thankfully she did not respond to that with anything more than a pronounced frown and squint. Yeah, I knew I was going to get some awesome behavior later, but at least we would avoid a conversation about the bedroom.

She did drag her feet. So I got onto her.

And then all hell broke out.

Tears. Screaming. Finger pointing. I was the worst person ever.

You see, contrary to some advice, you can’t talk the autism out of a kid. In fact, many respond negatively in moments of high emotion. It’s too much to process. You’re just a mean person.

I trust that in years to come, when our brilliant, unique child is older and can process things better, things will improve. We will be able to explain the cause and effect of her decisions, why some behaviors are wrong and she must be punished. But for now? I swear. Putting my head through a brick wall would be easier. But I will keep on, because what else can you do? Not acting on the behavior will only encourage more of the kind. So I soldier on. And drink a little bit more on the bad days after bedtime.