Tips & Considerations: How do I get my child to comply and follow instructions? (Part II)
We believe that every child has the potential to learn! However, sometimes children with autism may fail to begin on their learning journey mainly due to their non-compliance. Non-compliance can be demonstrated by the child either passively (e.g. ignoring the instruction given), or actively (e.g. whining and crying or becoming aggressive or self-injurious). It may be helpful to know that non-compliance may be deliberate or results from a lack of understanding and/or motivation.
In part I of the article, our Clinical Director, Ms. Wong Mai Shan (BSc. Edu). provided some steps that parents and caregivers can adopt when increasing a child’s level of compliance. Click link to read more:
#Tip 1: Following through
Only provide instructions for tasks that you are comfortable to follow through. Following through may require you to guide your child through a task by gesturing or assisting your child through the steps, eg, if you instructed your child to keep the toys but he or she did not do so you can physically prompt the child to put the toys in the container. It’s important to follow through if not your child will learn that it is ok not to comply or listen.
#Tip 2: Provide your child with positive choices or forced positive choices (when necessary)
This can be a consideration if you face lots of controlling behaviours from your child. Provide your child with positive choices (e.g. “Do you want to have ice cream or would you like to watch a video?”). Also provide forced choices when necessary (e.g. “Do you want to take a bath now or after two minutes?”).
#Tip 3: Start with an easy and motivating task which your child likes/prefers before exploring less desirable tasks
Start with something easy and motivating, and something he or she prefers to do. One example would be asking your child to eat his/her favorite snack or play with his/her favorite toy. By doing that, you will have a chance to praise and reward your child when (s)he complies. Gradually, the instructions will become less desirable while maintaining praise and rewards for compliance.
#Tip 4: Carry out non-preferred tasks in between easy, fun and preferred tasks to facilitate compliance
Facilitate your child’s compliance by “sandwiching” non-preferred tasks between easy and fun tasks. This helps to facilitate and increase compliance.
#Tip 5: Consistency – Be consistent with your expectations and provide consistent consequences
Be consistent with your expectations and provide consistent consequences. Stick to the same rules given to your child and follow through with them. Avoid changing the rules as it may confuse or upset your child.
#Tip 6: Give in early
Giving in is sometimes a better option if you know that your child may escalate with a more severe behavior such as tantrums. When you are unable to follow through with rules given due to unexpected circumstances, it is also advisable to give in early. For example, if your child requests nicely for an ice-cream in a busy shopping mall and you know he or she will throw a tantrum that you are not ready to deal with if you deny his request, then give him the ice-cream when he requests nicely in the first place.
#Tip 7: Always remember to praise and reward your child for their good behavior
Give your child meaningful reinforcers when he or she complies with instructions. Parents tend to pay attention to their children when they misbehave but sometimes, forget to reward their children when they are behaving well. It is important to always remember to praise your child for their good behavior!
#Tip 8 Stay calm when your child is not complying to avoid deliberate noncompliance that usually elicits a reaction
When your child does not comply with instructions, you should remain calm and as neutral as possible. Sometimes, children show noncompliance deliberately to elicit a reaction from you. Staying neutral can discourage deliberate non-compliance. Also, getting angry may result in a more chaotic situation and may sometimes, make the situation even worse.
Information provided by:Wong Mai Shan (Autism Partnership Clinical Director)
Ms. Wong Mai Shan holds a Bachelor of Science in Education from the University of Oregon. Upon graduation, she was in charge of designing and setting up a preschool program at a local kindergarten. Following that, she was a Supervisor at a childcare centre. Since 1989, she has been working with children who have special needs. During her time at Dover Court Preparatory school, she was appointed the Centre Co-coordinator and worked with a wide range of children with different disabilities. Her work with children with special needs continued at Horizon Centre for Special Education, where she was involved in the integration process of her students. She has been working with children with autism in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis since 2001. She served as Autism Partnership’s school supervisor and oversaw the school program, Little Learners. Mai Shan is presently the Clinical Director at AP Singapore, supervising case programs and overseeing training and development of staff. She is also a Behavior Consultant, providing services to families in Singapore and regionally.