Does your child pull on your arm to get to certain places? Does your child run off when you need him to stay with you? Does your child run so you will chase him? Does your child just not want to walk with you?
It is common to reprimand your child for not listening or walking nicely with you. Unfortunately, lots of reprimanding is not the most effective strategy for changing this behavior. A better strategy is to first decide what behavior you want to see instead (the “desired behavior”) and ultimately, strengthen it. Do you want to have the child stand next to you? Do you want the child to walk nicely and hold your hand? After identifying the desired behavior (e.g., walk nicely with you), you then need to make sure that you can motivate the child to behave in that manner. One strategy involves praising the child on a frequent basis for walking nicely beside you. You could tell your child, “I like the way you are walking nicely!” If the child is responsive to the praise and praise is given frequently, he may be more likely to continue walking nicely for you.
Keep in mind that in the past, not walking nicely has paid off for the child. It is now necessary to reduce the “pay off” received from behaving this way and teach the child that walking nicely—the “desired behavior”—will instead, result in much better things for the child.
Be sure to consistently use your strategy every time you are walking with your child. Behavior change takes time to work, but if you consistently place the emphasis on strengthening the desired behavior and reducing the emphasis placed on the undesired behaviors (e.g., running off), walking nicely will become second nature!
For more information, we recommend the book, Success on the Spectrum: How to Teach Skills to Individuals with Autism.