Set Expectations, be Consistent, and Follow Through

For example, if you tell your child that you will play a game with him if he plays quietly while you talk on the phone for five minutes, make sure that you keep your end of the bargain (barring unforeseen circumstances).You may need to give him a choice of what activity to do during that time that you are on the phone. If your child can’t tell time, set a timer that your child can see, get off the phone in exactly 5 minutes (barring unforeseen consequences), and play the game. If you do this consistently, your child will come to know what is expected and will believe in what you say. As he improves, you can increase the time. Once he learns how to play independently while you talk on the phone, you may be able to fade back on such a rigid set-up, but it is a good starting point to teach him how to act while you talk on the phone.This is one example but can be applied to many scenarios.

If you don’t implement expectations with consistency and follow through on your words, your child will not know what to expect. This can lead to anxiety and challenging behavior (e.g., talking to you while you are on the phone, repeatedly asking when you will be off the phone, etc.). Children with autism or other challenging behaviors thrive on predictability, so do your best to make their world predictable. Another example of predictability would be having a set routine each night (e.g. first homework…then TV or first put pajamas on…then read a story). Keep in mind that difficult behaviors are more likely to come out when things aren’t predictable, and we know we can’t make everything predictable all the time. Just know that if you are doing your best, it is not yours or your child’s fault when things don’t go according to plan. Just get back in the swing of a predictable routine as soon as possible.

You can also use visual pictures to show what the activity will be next. Eg. mom is on the phones 📞 next will play a puzzle 🧩

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