Wednesday, June 27, 2012


When considered by parents, teachers and other caregivers as a punitive measure, discipline will, by definition, wrongly include an emotional component and carry with it the stigma of retribution or the need to “get even” for someone doing something “wrong.” It usually involves reacting out of frustration instead of responding with the goal of teaching. This approach provides with few benefits and has a number of limitations. In this context, discipline is equated with punishment and is not consistent with our mission. At all times, this mindset is to be avoided. Punitive behavior management strategies become an invitation to find ways to “get even” rather than an invitation to understand the framework for positive behavior.  As a corrective tool, discipline can be used to clarify the potential consequences for “bad behaviors.” By applying the concept of natural and logical consequences, the emotional element normally found in punitive disciplinary actions becomes neutral.

Natural consequences are those which allow children to learn from the physical order of things. Example: “If you spill your juice on yourself, you will be wet until we can get home and you can change.”
Logical consequences are those which permit children to learn from the reality of the social order. Example: the child’s clothes are all over his bedroom floor and he refuses to put them away. He wants to play video games. So the logical consequence would be: putting away the clothes is required before playing. 

 Natural and logical consequences require the child to be responsible for his own behaviors. As a father I want to motivate my kids to make responsible decisions, not to force them to submission.

 Here are some tips:

1. Be both firm and kind. Firmness refers to your follow through behavior. Kindness refers to the manner in which you present the choice. In other words, firm with the problem, nice with your child. But always give the child a chance to choose so that he can have control: “Would you like to your shower now or after dinner?” “Do you want to do homework before or after playing in the computer?”

2. Talk less; act more.

3. Avoid fights; they indicate lack of respect for the other person. Do not give in; that indicates lack of respect for yourself.

4. Motivate instead of obligate. Example: “if you eat your food you can have dessert.”

And don’t forget to play and have fun with your kids. You not only enjoy them but you deposit “money in the bank for rainy times” (when you have to direct them to non-preferred activities). Love and fun are the most powerful tools of discipline.

Daniel Adatto, BCBA

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Finding outlets to your child’s endless energy

I recently heard about a karate studio that began a new program that is being offered for children with autistic spectrum disorders. The idea for offering a specific program for a broad spectrum of Autistic children came from one of the parents that trains with the owner and Sensei (instructor). 

"One day my student dropped by my school with her son and she walked around the studio with him," commented the instructor, "he was very excited and interested in the mirrors and the pictures. We asked him to do a couple of basic kicks and he did really well. The next time she brought him to the studio, she had him put on a karate uniform, and he was laughing and couldn't wait to get into the car and come to the studio. This is when the idea hit us; why couldn't we tailor a program of martial art's for kids with Autism?"

After a few visits, the boy's ABA Board Certified therapist started coming to the studio, rather than the boy’s house, to help develop a curriculum and structure for him.

"The goal of this program," commented the Sensei, "is to help these children find an outlet for their pent up energy. I know some parents are going to be concerned about their child learning how to kick or punch, therefore think they will be more aggressive, but we believe giving the child an opportunity to exercise, will actually help them to relax. Just like any normal child, these kids have a lot of energy and they don't have a way to use it. In addition, the martial art's is all about learning self-discipline, focus and concentration. Lastly, we hope that these classes will provide a social setting for these children to meet and have fun with other children."

"The goal of this new program is to tailor the curriculum to each child and target the areas they need the most help with," stated the instructor, "I also understand that I will need to be flexible with each child and work with the parents to make this a successful program!"

Initially, one of the requirements will be each child will need a "shadow" with them during their class. This can be a parent, an adult sibling or therapist.

What a great idea. And it can be any sport activity. I recommend group sports so there is social interaction. Many kids spend their long after school hours inside their homes, sometimes with little or no space for physical outlets and no social interaction, which is a recipe for disaster. They accumulate energy and if we do not direct them to appropriate activities, they find their own activities with known results. Change the dynamic of your household by enrolling your kids in sport classes. And when you are there, try it yourself. Trust me, it is worth it.

Daniel Adatto, BCBA