Manipulative Behavior in Autistic Children

by Lisa Fritscher

    Like all kids, autistic children sometimes use manipulative behaviors to get what they want. In some respects, manipulative behavior is actually a good sign in those with autism, MyAspergesChild.com states. It means that your child is making an honest attempt to connect with the wider world. Nonetheless, manipulative behavior must be stopped as it is ultimately destructive for the child and for those around him.

    Underlying Requests

    To maintain your sanity, Autism-Help.org recommends that you first recognize the legitimate request that lies beneath the poor behavior. Regardless of your child’s poor attempts to communicate his need, it is important for you to recognize that it exists and makes perfect rational sense to him. Try to get to the bottom of what is causing the behavior and, if it is a serious issue such as pain, attend to the request rather than ignoring it.

    Normalizing the Behavior

    Manipulative behavior is common and even rewarded in today’s society, points out Autism-Help.org. Children lack the coping skills of adults so they are particularly likely to use manipulation. Although it is important to change your child’s behavior, recognizing it as something that is common to all children can help you feel calmer and more in control. Likewise, according to DisabilityScoop.com, a diagnosis is not an excuse. Resist the urge to soften the boundaries simply because your child is autistic.

    Common Manipulations

    Each child is an individual, so expect yours to develop personalized manipulative behaviors that fit her personal circumstances. However, some behaviors are relatively common. For example, your child might attempt to play different people in her life against each other. She might throw a temper tantrum or bring up unrelated issues in an attempt to confuse you. Insist on addressing one issue at a time and ensure that all the adults in the child’s life are in agreement on how to handle that issue. If your child melts down, provide her with a quiet space to calm down rather than giving in to her demands.

    Strategies for Reducing Manipulative Behavior

    Although you cannot completely eliminate your child’s manipulative behaviors, MyAspergersChild.com provides some strategies for minimizing their occurrence. Begin by fostering an atmosphere of trust and open communication. Remember that your autistic child may be unable to verbalize what is going on with him, particularly during times of stress. Ask leading questions, read his nonverbal cues and attempt to address his needs early on. When a power struggle erupts, disengage from the battle. Remain loving and responsive toward your child, but refuse to participate in the disagreement. Resist the urge to escalate the situation by becoming demanding or controlling. Give your child options and let him decide which one to use. If you regularly become overwhelmed by your child’s behavior, seek professional assistance.

    About the Author

    Lisa Fritscher is a freelance writer specializing in disabled adventure travel. She spent 15 years working for Central Florida theme parks and frequently travels with her disabled father. Fritscher's work can be found in both print and online mediums, including VisualTravelTours.com. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of South Florida.

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