Promoting Compliance in Children with Autism

The concept of instructional control may escape our children, but its basis is simple. Parents want, or rather, expect to have instructional control in their relationship with their child. You naturally expect your child to listen to your commands and instruction for the simple reason that you’re their parent and you want what’s best for them. This expectation might not come as naturally to your children, especially for children on the autism spectrum. Establishing this relationship and expectation is nothing short of challenging, but you can work on promoting compliance in your children to get started. In this post, we discuss some of the strategies for establishing instructional control by promoting compliance.

Set Expectations

When we discuss behavioral challenges in children with autism, the concept of positive reinforcement tends to be the main focus. While it’s certainly important, it’s only truly effective if your expectations are set for your child ahead of time, and you stick to them. To promote compliance be sure to communicate the expectations you have for your child early and often, and stick to them as much possible. 

Let’s take an example of a task your child may not be excited to complete, like getting homework done or doing a household chore. If you let them know ahead of time the quantity and quality of what you expect them to achieve, you can properly reinforce them completing that task with an appropriate reward. If you are inconsistent or don’t reinforce that initial expectation because your child wants to negotiate those terms, you’re not promoting compliance and instead reinforcing them bending your rules to their benefit. For many parents, it may not be hard to set expectations but much harder to reinforce them consistently. This makes establishing trust in this relationship imperative. 

Build and Maintain Trust

Trust is important in every facet of our relationships. When promoting compliance in your children, it’s crucial to do so with a foundation of trust and understanding. The best way to build this trust is by always following through on promises and statements, especially when rewarding your child for positive and productive behavior. Just as you’d set and enforce expectations on your child, do so for yourself as well. This teaches trust while also reinforcing the idea that words matter and your statements and instructions are always important.

It may sound simple enough, but it’s a powerful gesture that can instill a stronger desire in your child to comply as they know what to expect from their interactions with you. Pair this trust with a strong sense of patience and understanding, and you’re more likely to get through to your child than an approach based solely on discipline or reprimanding negative behaviors.

Breaks, Fun, and Positive Experiences

Last but not least, be sure to remember that promoting compliance is about making all of your interactions with your child positive. This means being patient as you establish instructional control over time as well as being okay with breaks and plenty of fun separate from productivity, chores, and other tasks. It’s important your child associates you with these positive experiences and not just commands and maintaining order.

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Dr. Carly Lapin, Ph.D., BCBA-D from The Place for Children with Autism recently discussed ‘Promoting Compliance’ with Brandon Umphrey M.Ed., BCBA. Check out the video below:

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