Discipline can be tricky and controversial when disciplining special needs children.
I am NOT going to give you the one and only way to discipline but I WILL give you tips on how to adjust your current techniques to fit the language needs of your child.
Visuals are THE MOST IMPORTANT component and I cannot stress this enough! If children have trouble understanding language or expressing themselves, this difficulty will be exacerbated when emotions are running high. However, visuals can help dramatically!!
What do I mean by visuals you ask?
Well, that is a very good question. You have a few options and this will depend on the specific needs of your child.
One example would be to have visuals of the unwanted behavior. This could be as simple as a quick drawing or pictures printed off the internet.
Some visual examples:
These might not be the best visuals but you get the point. When your child gets in trouble, you can point to the wrong behavior to explain what he/she did wrong during a timeout or whatever you use!
This visual system can be effective. Have a picture of a stop light or just color a red, yellow, and green circle. When children are making good choices, they stay on green. You can signify this by a paper clip next to the green circle. If they are making some bad choices, they can move to yellow. If they made a very bad choice, they would be placed on red.
If you want to shape good behavior, you can reward your child will a token such as a marble. With every good choice, give your child a marble to put in a jar and keep the jar in a very visual spot! You can reward your child for earning so many marbles such as 10 marbles means an extra 10 minutes at the park, etc....
Discipline can be quite tricky for a child with special needs because language always plays a part in the process and language skills may be impaired.
Therefore, this must be considered during the whole process.
For example, let's say a child pushes his brother and takes a toy. The discipline for this action must be immediate and relevant. A good idea would be to remove the child from the playing and explain "no playing when you make unsafe choices." He can go back to playing when he is ready to play nice and safe. A BAD idea, would be to ignore it, shout "share," or not let the child have dessert at dinner later because he didn't play nice while his brother gets dessert.
Besides being cruel, the consequence has nothing to do with the choices made during playing. The child will not understand and not learn a thing.
This I can't stress enough!!!!!!!!!! As a speech therapist, I am always aware of the grammar structures and level of vocabulary (frequent vs non-frequent words) when talking with others.
After pointing this out to my husband, I realize all adults don't do this, ha!
So, let's review what simple language really means.
The language necessary for your child will depend on his level of understanding. If your child is non-verbal, you can always use visuals to describe reactions and help them communicate emotions.
Example of Feeling Visuals
If your child is speaking, make sure you match your child's language abilities during a time of heightened emotions.
This means...if your child is speaking using 1-2 words at a time, you do the same.
You might say:
In the "DON'T say" version, the child might not understand anything and therefore all learning was lost. The sentences are complex with difficult grammatical structures (i.e., could have) and full of high-level vocabulary (i.e., million).
Keep it simple and remember you are shaping behavior and not language!
If you want practical and easy ways to help improve your child's language abilities, we have LOADS of that! Check out some of our help guides:
My favorite disciple technique is.......NOTHING! I use different techniques depending on the situation.
Techniques will depend on the child's age, behaviors, cognition, and language abilities.