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The best gifts you can give your children with autism are lessons in preparing them for the real world they will someday need to survive in.  If they don’t learn it from you, the people who love and cherish them the most, they’ll run the risk of having to learning it from those who aren’t as understanding, loving, and compassionate. Behaviors that can be passable at 3 and 4 but left unchecked will become isolating at 20 and 30.

Think of your home as a microcosm of the larger world.  Your job as a parent is to prepare your child to be a functional member of the society around them, so they can negotiate this world using the tools they learned in their homes.

If you met a friend for dinner and that friend started yelling at the waiter and throwing their plate because their food is cold would you go out with them again? If you wanted a babysitter to stay later and they said they can’t would you hit them?  And if you did, would they relent? For our children this world is even more confusing, even more intense, even more frustrating. It’s imperative that our children work on their behaviors and manners when they are young and in the safety of our care.

Here are 5 tips for preparing your child with autism for the real world:

1.  Make your children ask for what they want, and do it nicely.

If your child grunts and pushes a cup your way, shrug and wait till you are asked… and asked politely.  If not they have to wait a minute and try you again.  When is the last time you grunted at a barrista? There are plenty of ways children who are nonverbal or pre-verbal to use manners when requesting items.

2.  Teach the value of time: both yours and theirs.

If your child doesn’t want to do something and delays by whining or complaining, they are wasting your time.  In your world that is time wasted. You could be making dinner, paying bills, or running errands. Whatever.  So take that time back!  They tantrum and delay 20 minutes, waste 20 minutes of time they would spend doing what they want with chores or work.

3.  Expect them to clean up their own space.

In the real world we have to clean our spaces, things don’t miraculously get clean on their own.  We don’t like doing it either right?!? Not only does this teach discipline, it will help them feel pride in their own space and belongings.

4.  Do not accept unacceptable behavior.

If your child misbehaves/hits/tantrums or is rude no one wants to be around them. I see so many parents trying to speak to a child as they hit and punch them.  Would you stand around with someone screaming and assaulting you?  They should not have access to any attention (or least possible that is safe).  Teach them now that people don’t want to be around people like that. If a child is having a behavioral meltdown, make sure she’s safe, and give them the time and space to calm down. It’s tough, but try not to engage with a child whose behavior is unacceptable; do not reinforce negative attention seeking behaviors.

5.  Reward positive behaviors immediately!

In the real world when you are a great person people want to be around you!!  If your child is acting appropriately, shower him or her with praise. Always work to reinforce positive behaviors. Show them how proud they make you when they behave and how nice it is to be around them.


The fact is, we will not always be around to meet our children’s needs and care for them. A day will come when many of our children will need to be in the care of others. It’s imperative that our children learn how to act appropriately and politely, so they can get their needs and wants met effectively. The earlier we start, the more easily our kids can pick up on these necessary skills.