This is the number one question that I get asked in my role as a registered positive behaviour support practitioner. “Why won’t my child listen to me”? It is a really valid question and one that can be answered. All of the parents who I work with are trying their best to connect with their child, but it may come down to when and how they are trying to communicate with their child that offers the missing piece to the puzzle.

Let me explain what is happening in your child’s brain when they are ‘not listening to you’!

I will start by putting you in their shoes. Imagine you have had a really big day of work, there was a lot asked of you and you had to solve so many problems. There were a few problems that remained on your mind as you travelled home. Upon arriving at home, the answers dawned on you. You had struck a solution ‘gold mine’ in your brain, but you know that you only have 2 minutes to write these answers down before you inevitably will forget them and you will be back to square one. You go to grab a pen to write down your brilliant ideas, you have total laser focus and are feeling incredible. Suddenly, someone runs over to you and starts talking about a completely different topic. They are asking questions about your take on their story. Of course, you can’t answer them as you were focussed on writing down the answers to your own HUGE problems. You keep trying to redirect or push the person away, even if it is for a few minutes, but they WILL NOT LEAVE YOU ALONE. The questions and demands are raining down. Suddenly, you feel your brilliant spell is broken, the answers you had to your work problems are vanish like the mist at sunrise. You are devastated. If only the other person gave you some time to write down your answers you would be a different person.

You reach breaking point. You stand up, yell angrily at the person and walk angrily out of the room.

All you needed was a bit of PROCESSING TIME. When you want to make request of a person on the autism spectrum, or support them with a transition, you need to do it at the right time and in the right way.

If they are in a highly repetitive cycle of behaviour, or intensely focussed, you could join them in this activity or engage with them in a meaningful way. This means prioritising their activity over your own agenda. When you can see that you have a connection with the person, then it could be time to offer the request or transition in a visual way. Giving someone processing time is one of the best ways to reduce aggressive behaviour and increase engagement with individuals on the autism spectrum.

Give it a try, I promise you won’t regret it!!

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