When you think about limit setting, do have the sudden urge to run and hide?
If so, you’re not alone. Setting limits is a very challenging, yet necessary, part of life. If our children are to grow up to be competent adults, they must have a degree of self-mastery and self-regulation.
Why is it so difficult to set limits with children with neuro-developmental disabilities? Is it that they’re simply unable to adhere to limits? Absolutely not! Is it that they’re unable to manage their own behaviour? Actually, with the right approach and dedication they are.
Then what’s the problem?
Due to your child’s neural makeup, he or she processes information differently than a typical child does. Below are some of the “core processing challenges” that individuals with ASD struggle with.
- Self Awareness – the ability to understand how one’s behavior impacts others; the ability to understand and appreciate others’ unique values, beliefs and perspectives
- Episodic Memory – the ability to use past experiences to guide future behaviour, and to learn from consequences
- Flexible Thinking – the ability to flexibly and successfully cope with life’s numerous unexpected situations; to think in shades of grey, and without rigidity
- Dynamic Appraisal – the ability to manage information on a moment-to-moment basis, and to quickly determine how to respond to it without getting “stuck”
- Experience Sharing – the ability to participate in genuine, reciprocal communication, and to enjoy the “dance” of social interaction
Children learn to navigate their world from a very, very young age. Development unfolds through a child’s relationships with parents and caregivers. Through countless hours of interaction, children learn to understand people, borrow the perspective of their guides, and build resilience. ASD children literally miss out on pieces of development! Therefore, it’s incredibly challenging for parents and child to understand each other emotionally, on a moment-to-moment basis, among other challenges. Does this mean that we should simply give up? No. It is possible to re-establish the “guiding relationship” between parents and their ASD child. It’s also possible to learn to set limits, and for your child to learn to stick to them!
One of the lines spoken by author Ross Greene (The Explosive Child) at a workshop I attended long ago has stayed with me ever since; “Children do well if they can.” Your child wants desperately to have your approval, and to feel competent – and I can almost guarantee you that with the right guidance, even the most challenging children and their parents can find a balance.
Over the next two weeks, I’d like you to consider your limit setting style and the “culture” of boundaries in your home. Do you have clear limits? Do you feel entitled to set limits? Are you constantly “giving in,” or do you feel that you’re too heavy handed? Keep track of limits that you feel need to be established.