B is for:


B is for BITING!
Ouch!
This is a really tough one.
It is such an effective way to get someone out of your space, to elicit a reaction, and to get sensory input when you are angry, threatened or excited, that it comes naturally to many children, not just those on the autistic spectrum.
And it comes just as naturally for the victim to squawk or scream in an amusing fashion, to pull away and to be wary around the biter. So no wonder they do it again.
Hey, I would do it if I thought I could get away with it. Much simpler than writing a letter or making a dozen phone calls to whoever is annoying you. Just go and visit them and crunch!
It is actually an acceptable form of fighting in some countries so our kids are just obeying a natural instinct that seems to work.
How do we put an end to it?
Well the first thing is not to react. Very difficult when your beloved 3 year old has just nipped you on caesarean scar (a convenient height when you are 3) and you are in white hot pain meltdown. But stifle the scream, it just increases the likelihood of a repeat.
If you can get on to this early enough you will hopefully be stronger than the child so you can then move them towards a pre-planned time out zone.
Time out zones are for both parties. They remove the child from the situation and they remove the victim from the aggressor, thus ensuring there is no retaliatory swipe.
Don’t smack or hit or bite back. It isn’t fair and it will not solve the situation. Just remove them firmly and put them in “the zone”.
For reasons of compliance this has to be more than just the “naughty step”.
A sophisticated child with ASD is just not going to stay there alone. You need a room with no toys visible, (lock toys in a cupboard or toy box when they are not in use) or the back porch if you have an enclosed yard is a good idea.
You have to be within sight or sound of the biter. This is about separation, not isolation.
In warm weather the back garden is great, especially if you have a glass back door.
Staying within range of the child is very important. And only a short time is needed, so if are nearby, you won’t forget about them!
Whatever space you come up with, make sure there is nothing there that they can wreck or tip over to create further mayhem and regain your attention.
I learned this the hard way after my son tipped over a swing-slide set, got his finger trapped in folding garden chairs (a trip to the emergency room ensued) and found a way to tip over the wheelie bin.
Once I learned to remove all such items from the back yard, he lost his power and the withdrawal of attention began to work.
Inside, they may turn on taps (if you are using a bathroom, or flip clothes, books or toys around (so put away all the clothes and toys or use another room) or; in the case of one particularly creative tantrum, urinate on the floor (or worse) so it helps if there is no carpet!
The room has to be child proof. And whatever they do, you have to be able to leave them to it for 5-10 minutes.
The younger they are, the less time they need.
If Boo bit his sister I would stay at the glass porch door and comfort her visibly while he was in the garden.
He soon learnt that this was not a way to win friends and influence people, and the behavior ceased. At home. But that is another story………
The other advice I would give for any inappropriate behavior is to do an “A.B.C”.
Don’t worry about fancy forms, just get a piece of A4 paper and draw 3 columns, put it on a clipboard and attach a pen.
The first column stands for Antecedent; what happened before you observed the behaviour,
the next is the actual Behaviour, come up with a standard description so others can fill in the chart too,
and the last is Consequence; what you or others did afterwards.
When a behavior happens, put them into the "time out" zone and grab the clipboard.
It will help to calm you if you are mad, and you are less likely to do anything unreasonable if you have to write it down.
I am not judging you, we have all done it when pushed, I am prone to a scream myself, but I regret it straight away.
So if you are filling in the consequence column, it is nice to be able to say:
“ignored behaviour and put child in time out zone for 5 minutes”
Instead of:
"screamed like a crazy woman and fell bad about it straight away so did no good whatsoever".
The same goes for smacking, slapping or other physical punishments. Stop reading now if you do not agree with me but you are on the wrong track if you are resorting to this.
Firstly, it isn’t fair. You are bigger and stronger than your child. So it is a form of bullying if you hit them.
Secondly, it won’t do any good. The shock of the pain will not necessarily help them to learn. As Jack Dee a British Comedian says; “if smacking helped people to learn we would be doing it to foreigners to help them learn English” .
And lastly, the sensory challenges of the child with autism are usually in the realm of a very high pain threshold anyway.So you would really have to belt them for them to feel it. And you don’t want to do that. (if you do then you belong in jail)

Seriously, forget about threatening to smack too, as they will soon learn whether you mean it. Make threats by all means, but make them about things you will do.
I can find Boo in a shop in 12 seconds just by saying in a loud voice
“Come back here or I will put your DVD player in the bin”
Poof! He reappears as if by magic.
I learned threats from another magnificent parent with THREE kids with ASD.
She told me how she had to threaten to leave a highly preferred location if her eldest son kept going out of her sight (stranger danger) and when he did it one more time she put him in the car and drove 30 miles.
When she did turn around and go back he made sure not to go out of her sight.
Mean it, and Do it, if you have to.

Once you have filled one side of an A4 page, I guarantee you will be able to see a pattern.Either in the Antecedent or Consequence column there will be a row of similar activities.It is like when you do Weight Watchers and they tell you to write down everything you eat for one day.
One, it makes you think about every single morsel, because you know you have to write it down.
And Two, it shows you exactly how much crap you are eating in the course of one day.
So the ABC will teach you to control the environment which may be reinforcing the behaviour, and it will quickly show you which activities or situations make it most likely to occur.
Then you can look at changing them.
I have a very dear friend who is going through exactly what I did when Boo was 4, with her little fella. This little guy was turning on taps and pouring honey on the carpet and generally giving her no peace. I made a little Hammie House call (she makes fabulous snacks) and observed it during our cuppa and chat.
Well this little guy was so clever. He knew that if he just continued to explore his world and all the entertaining and stimulating aspects of his environment like overflowing sinks and climbing out of windows, his Mum would just make the best noise.
It was like an oodle doodley lla allla lllah LaH! As she ran around trying to stem the flood or bring him back from the neighbors or get him to climb down off the roof.
I have to be honest, it was that good, I wanted to hear it again.
That is why the standard issue parenting manual that they give you in hospital (what? You didn’t get one?) does not work with kids like ours.
They love the stuff that other kids hate. They want to push your buttons and score your reactions, even when you are apoplectic with rage that your new leather sofa now has an amusing design of 4s and 7s done in ballpoint pen.
They just don’t register your displeasure and may even be entertained by your reaction.
So you have to start again and learn new ways.

Okay, so where were we? Biting. There may also be a separate sensory need related to biting. But this is more evident in the continued mouthing of objects that are not food, rather than the quick nip to get someone out of your face. And that is another chapter.xx

Comments

Editor, Supernanny.co.uk said…
Hi there. Your blog is excellent - it really tells it like it is and is also very moving (without you feeling sorry for yourself)
I was interested to read it, because I edit wwws.Supernanny.co.uk, the parenting website. One of our bloggers, Claire, has experienced autism with her children (you can read about her struggle to get statements etc here, http://www.supernanny.co.uk/Advice/-/Health-and-Development/-/Special-Needs/Autism-~-a-parent's-perspective.aspx, and also look at her blog on our site - http://www.supernanny.co.uk/Community/Blogs/Claire.aspx) and we also have a lot of other articles on autism and adhd (eg, http://www.supernanny.co.uk/Advice/-/Health-and-Development/-/Special-Needs/Parents'-Guide-to-Autism.aspx), as well as a Forum which you could post on. So, if you ever have any time (fat chance), why not check us out?
Thank you.
Best wishes,
Sarah, Editor, Supernanny.co.uk

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