Autism Watch: 2007

Autism and “Discipline”

Posted on: November 5, 2010

Discipline is defined as “training to act in accordance with rules” or “punishment inflicted by way of correction and training,” or “activity, exercise or regimen that develops or improves a skill; training.”

See the recurring theme there? Training.

So what is training? Is it making a kid take a time out? Lose 10 minutes of recess time? Write a sentence about how he won’t xxx 10 times?

I’d argue that any of that is training.

In my job, when I train someone, I say something like “Part of your job is handling customers that call us. To do that properly, you need to learn how to answer the phone. To do that, you need to 1) answer the phone before 10 seconds, 2) push the F9 button on your computer keyboard, 3) recite the company-approved greeting….” and so forth. I’d give the new hire a step-by-step guide on how to use their computer, when they can take their breaks, how to act ethically and what is consider firing offenses. I’d sit them at a desk to watch someone else do the same job, and explain a lot of the nuances — don’t ever argue with a customer, no cursing on the phone or in the office, no yelling, etc. In short, they are taught beforehand what to do and what not to do. When they make a mistake, I’d tell them and tell them on how they can do better. But, there are two key things: 1) always provide the expectations, so they know what they have to attain, and 2) if those expectations are different, for any reason, tell them ahead of time.

Ahhhh, it seems so easy. Tell them what to do, how to do it, and what not to do. Without that, we can’t fairly expect someone to work up to standards. We can hope they have manners and are reliable, arrive on time and respect authority, but what if they’ve never worked before? What if their family didn’t teach these skills? Assumptions can get you in trouble.

Schools should operate the same way. Provide guidance, ahead of time, on what the expectations are. Don’t assume the children have the skills to meet these expectations, but work with them from day one on attaining those skills. Gauge what skills they have and what they don’t, even if it takes a bit longer with some kids. If you tell them that they are to do xxx or xxxx will happen, don’t  suddenly let xxxxx happen to them instead of xxxx. If losing recess is standard, but you’re dealing with an autistic child who desperately needs that time to make social contacts, don’t take away recess; the ‘punishment’ should always fit the crime.

Discipline in the adult world means one thing; why do we allow it to mean something different to our children?

Check your child’s school and be sure things are handled per your IEP or per the law and common sense. Just because a school says ‘this is how we do things’ doesn’t mean it’s fair or right, or even legal. Schools are run by humans, and we all know that all humans make mistakes. If you wouldn’t want to be punished daily for making mistakes on a task you weren’t taught to do, don’t let your child be ‘disciplined’ for it either; instead, ask for help, and training.

Training. A new buzzword, who’d have thought.

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1 Response to "Autism and “Discipline”"

Love this blog and I absolutely agree.

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