Encouraging Positive Behavior

I am sure if you read my blog, you will see numerous posts that are titled, “Encouraging Positive Behavior” because it is truly the most important aspect in your parenting to avoid meltdowns and to give your children the tools they need to be successful in life. Remember, as a parent, you are your child’s coach; you’re coaching them thru life and helping them make good choices and avoid bad ones.

This last weekend we were at the park. I bring cars, buckets, bubbles and basically any highly desired toy and lay them all out in the sand where we are sitting. I do this to encourage kids to come over to my children and play. I am essentially forcing social interaction to help my kids to interact with other kids and promote positive play.

While I was sitting and playing with a bunch of kids, I am watching this little boy running around the playground with his mom following him around. She was catering to his every need and anytime something didn’t go his way, he started throwing a fit. His mom would then let him do whatever he wanted, so he would stop crying. At one point, he tried to steal a kids toy and when the kid started crying, he hit the boy. The mother looked horrified, however she didn’t force the child to apologize and there was no consequence for his behavior. She apologized to the child and parent and moved on.

A few minutes later the little boy came running over to our group and wanted to play. The mom looked overwhelmed and I offered the boy a seat next to me. We started talking and she was voicing her frustrating with her child’s behavior. I told her that my son has Autism and I have been trained in ABA therapy and would she mind if I used some of my methods to see what happens. She agreed and we started playing.

A couple of basic tools/rules that I used included the following:

  1. If you want to borrow a toy from someone else, you need to ask permission and say please. The other child can say yes or no, however if they say no, they have 5 minutes to play with that toy and then they give the toy to the child who asked to borrow it. By doing this, you are giving each child a choice, and the 5 minutes is consistent for every child so now they have an expectation of when they are getting the toy.
  2. Every time a child agrees to share a toy or gives up the toy at the 5 minute mark, you high five them and say, “I like that you shared your toy, what a great choice.” This is encouraging positive behavior and children love praise. They will repeat the behavior over and over to get positive praise from a parent.
  3. If a child doesn’t want to share or doesn’t give the toy up at the 5 minute mark, you simply tell the child, “What a bummer that you didn’t give the toy to Billy, hopefully you will make a better choice next time” and take the toy away. This will teach the child that by sharing their toy they get rewarded and by not sharing their toys, they do not get rewarded.

After about ten minutes we had 6 children all playing with the toys together and sharing with one another. We even had one child offer to share his car before anyone asked to borrow it, because he wanted positive praise.

I then told all the kids we had to go home and it was time to help us clean up. The mom started panicking and trying to calm him down before he had any reaction. She nervously said, “he will have a meltdown because he wants to take a car home.” I responded that he was going to have a meltdown because you just gave him permission to. I knew that this sounded a bit harsh, but I really wanted to help her, and she was asking for my help, so I felt that being straight forward and honest was the best way I could help her.

I distracted the child and told all of the kids it was time to cleanup and to please pick up the cars and put in my bag. As soon as the first child put a car in the bag, I loudly said, “what a great choice you made by putting the car in the bag, thank you” and gave a big high five. Like clockwork, the kids started lining up eagerly trying to put the cars in the bag, even her son. Soon we were all cleaned up, nobody was crying, and everyone had fun.

At the end of the day, she was very appreciative of the new tools she had learned and was excited to use them with her son. As parents, there isn’t a class on how to deal with our children’s different behaviors or personalities. We kind of fly by the seat of our pants, do a lot of research online, talk to our mom friends, and do the best job we can. I was so happy that I could share what I had learned and now she saw first hand that her son is capable of playing nicely with other children, she just needed the right tools as his coach to show him how to do it.

Differences between ADHD and Sensory Processing Issues

Great chart explaining the differences between ADHD and Sensory Processing Issues.

Tantrums vs. Meltdowns

A child with Autism, who is having a meltdown, is vastly different then a child having a tantrum. So why do they call it a tantrum? It is called lack of education and is very frustrating as a parent of a child with Autism when you call it a tantrum. . Let me explain the difference.

I am at the grocery store with my child and my son/daughter wants a piece of candy. I say no and he/she proceeds to roll on the ground screaming and crying and basically throwing a fit. This is called a tantrum. A tantrum is a child who isn’t getting what they want and will do anything to get your attention, usually negative, to get what he/she wants. This happens in ALL children, including those with Autism. This is a tantrum. It is something that the child has control over and the parent can address and ideally change the behavior.

A meltdown is completely different and something a child with Autism can’t control. A meltdown can occur from many different things including, lack of routine, transitioning to a different task or event, lack of speech, frustration, and sensory overload. A meltdown takes redirection, soothing, and other tactics to help calm the child down. It might take calming the child down enough to be able to help them communicate what they need because when they are having a meltdown, communicating comes to a halt. This takes patience and love.

My son with Autism has tantrums when he doesn’t get what he wants. He is 4 and this is very typical of toddlers. I ignore the tantrum and not give in to his demands. I do not react to negative attention so he realizes that this type of behavior doesn’t work and in the future makes a better choice. Usually when he does it in the grocery store, we get nasty looks and I laugh because if you have a child, you have been in my shoes.

However, if you give me a nasty look when my son is having a meltdown, you will get a different reaction from me. I want to scream, “he has Autism and is having a meltdown so what are you looking at!” However, I understand that they aren’t educated in the difference between a tantrum and a meltdown and they think that my child is just being a brat.

After you have read this blog I hope that you are well versed in the differences between a tantrum and a meltdown and can offer sympathy or help next time you see a mom or dad in the grocery store with a child having a meltdown.



Positive Behavior Reward Chart

With twin 5 year old boys and one with Autism, we were encountering some negative behaviors which were making our lives as parents more difficult. These negative behaviors are typical behaviors all kids do; not listening to mom or dad, hitting their sibling, not sharing, and the “I wants.”  The “I wants” are when you are trying to run an errand at the grocery store and they want everything. I want this car, I want this cereal, the I want EVERYTHING that will frustrate you as a parent and make you dream of grocery shopping alone.

I spoke with Ms. Kelli, who is Wyatt’s teacher and specializes in ABA therapy. She gave me a brilliant solution which has worked for us. It is the Positive Behavior Rewards Chart using stickers and it is awesome!

Each child has a Reward Chart, which you can Google for different styles of charts, that will work for your family. For every positive behavior they do, they get a sticker.We then sit down with the kids and talk about positive behaviors and examples of them. We talk about how every positive behavior gets a sticker and once they fill up all the boxes, they get a predetermined award. After explaining the reward chart, we take them to Target and they get to 1) pick out their own stickers and 2) pick out their reward. You do not buy the reward, you have them leave the store without their desired toy. Talk about motivation!!! We use the chart on the left, however you can use the one on the right for more specific goals.

Some key rules to follow to help ensure your success:

  1. It is very important that you allow them to put the sticker in the square and celebrate the positive behavior at the time they are putting the sticker on the chart.
  2. Do not threaten to remove stickers for negative behaviors, this is positive reinforcement only. If they exhibit a negative behavior I would say, “What a bummer that you decided to hit your brother, you missed a great opportunity to add a sticker to your rewards chart, and closer to getting that Star Wars figure.”
  3. DO NOT BUY them anything unless they have earned enough stickers to fill up all the boxes. If you do, their motivation is gone.
  4. If you have multiple children, always point out the good behaviors of another sibling. Example:  Susie is making good choices and sharing with her brother but little Johnny doesn’t want to share. I wouldn’t acknowledge Johnny’s bad behavior, I would tell Susie how she is making good choices by sharing with her brother and playing nicely and she gets to add a sticker to her chart.

I hope this information is helpful for you and your family and helps eliminate bad behaviors!



Autism and Sleep Issues

For those of you who know about our struggle having Wyatt sleep thru the night, I am ecstatic to report that he has slept thru the night two nights in a row! WooHoo!

For those who are new to our story, Wyatt doesn’t sleep well at night. He wakes up 4-6 times a night. I think it was his way to pay us back for all the times we told him he couldn’t do something he wanted to do. LOL I work full time so this was a huge challenge and quite frankly not working out well for my husband and I. I posted about our struggle on Facebook and had a lot of great ideas from friends. I researched everything and bought every product that might help him sleep, we were desperate.

He has been on Melatonin for 2 years and it works in the beginning and the effect slowly wears off. The problem with Melatonin is that it will put you to sleep, however it doesn’t keep you asleep. Our doctor recommended we put him on Melatonin ER (extended release) which is supposed to keep him asleep. It worked great the first night, however hasn’t worked well since.

I have heard a lot about Essential Oils, however I honestly didn’t think they would work and it was a waste of money. I am happy to report I was wrong! A friend recommended Lavender Oil and told me to rub on the bottom of his feet and also to put in a diffuser in his room. I have done both the last two nights and he has slept thru the night!

Through out our Autism journey we have had to try different supplements, therapies, medicines and now oils to see what will help Wyatt. If one doesn’t work, try the next one. This can get very expensive and can feel frustrating at times. So when you find something that works and helps your child, it is very rewarding. It solidifies they fact that all the time and energy you are putting into helping your child is worth it.



Vitamin Supplements

When Wyatt was first diagnosed with Autism, I did a lot of research on vitamin supplements. The results that parents and doctors found made me interested enough to try. Anything that might help offset behaviors was worth it to me. After extensive research, here are the vitamins that I would recommend. Please only try one vitamin at a time to make sure your little one can tolerate and that it has a positive affect. For example, Wyatt could tolerate small does of B12 but when we switched to B12 injections, he became very angry and we stopped immediately. What vitamins have you tried or do you recommend?

1) Super Nu Thera by Kirkman Labs (Multivitamin) http://www.amazon.com/Kirkman-Super-Nu-Thera-…/…/ref=sr_1_1… follow directions

2) B12 with 5000 mcg Methylcobalamin http://www.amazon.com/Jarrow-Formulas-Methylc…/…/ref=sr_1_2…
If he shows improvement on this she should get B12 injections. Follow directions. There are liquid forms if he won’t chew.

3) Children’s fish oil http://www.amazon.com/Carlson-Kids-Finest-Ora…/…/ref=sr_1_4… follow directions

4) If he has trouble sleeping you can give him 1 teaspoon of Melatonin http://www.amazon.com/Natrol-Melatonin-2-5mg-…/…/ref=sr_1_1… 1 teaspoon in water or juice

5) If he has any digestive issues use this probiotic. http://www.amazon.com/Culturelle-Digestive-He…/…/ref=sr_1_5… 1 capsule in water or juice