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Best ways to deal with autistic boy's erratic behavior

Boy playing with toy truck in the dirt and grass.

(Photo: Flickr/Tony Alter)

Best ways to deal with autistic boy's erratic behavior

May 13, 2013

Q: I have a 4-year-old grandson with autism whose behavior is difficult. He snatches toys from his 2-year-old sister and doesn't respond to time-outs. He doesn't respond well to instructions and does what he pleases, sometimes overturning small chairs and tables. He is healthy and eats a gluten-free diet, but do you have any suggestions about these behavior problems?

A: Children with autism often display these behaviors of Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) and attention/focusing problems (similar to ADHD). The ODD includes aggression and non-compliance and the ADHD is the lack of ability to sit and focus.

Most often, they do not have voluntary control over these behaviors (it is part of the autism) and so the usual behavior modification strategies do not work. This is why the time-out does not work. This does not mean that a plan will never work, and here is a very good explanation of developing a behavior plan.

Ultimately, what is needed is medication to calm the aggression and hyperactivity and help focus. The children with autism will often see a developmental pediatrician or child psychiatrist who specializes in autism to find the right medication.

The behavior are often a result of the anxiety that is caused by sensory stimulation. Also the inability to have empathy also makes it hard to explain why taking toys is not appropriate. In his mind, "I see it. I want it" -- without regard to his sister's feelings.

I hope that you find this helpful.

-- Answer from Dr. Bonnie, a psychologist on JustAnswer with expertise in treating patients with autism.

Daily Answer is excerpted from the JustAnswer archives and features information provided by a Expert on JustAnswer.

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