Be Positive

Nadia Shanab | autism, parenting, tips
24 Jun 2010

When you tell a child — especially with special needs — “don’t“, you leave her/him with no options. When you give an alternative or a substitute, you are giving her/him an opportunity to correct or modify the inappropriate behavior or action.

What should you do?

  • Use the affirmative form instead of the negative form when you talk to the child
  • Tell the child what to do instead of what not to do
  • Make short sentences with five words maximum (the rule of five)
  • Substitute for the undesired behavior or action with the desired one
  • Be specific
  • Use icons and signs


Instead of “Don’t run” say “Walk”

Instead of “Don’t talk”, “Don’t shout”, “Don’t scream, “Don’t hum, or “Don’t yell”,  say “Be quiet”

Instead of “Don’t pick your nose” say “Quiet hands” or “Hands in lap”

Instead of “Don’t hit”, “Don’t scratch, or “Don’t kick” say “Quiet body” and “Say sorry!”

Instead of “No grabbing, or pulling, or pushing” say “Nice hands” or “gentle hands”

Instead of “Don’t spit” say “Spitting is dirty” or “Be clean”

Instead of “Don’t swing in your chair” say “Chair down” or “Be safe” and point to the problem

Instead of “Don’t be loud” say “Whisper”

Instead of “Don’t snatch” say “Ask can I have it?”

Instead of “Don’t flap your hands” say “Snowball hands”

Using Signs

Some kids have obsessions with certain things like the computers/games or a certain toy or object. To stop the child from using these things when they shouldn’t be put a STOP sign on it.

You can also put a CLOSED sign.

The STOP sign has also helped a lot in classrooms, especially for runners (children who tend to open the door and run away). It would be great to have two STOP signs, one on the door at the children’s vision level and one on the floor right by the door. It can be used wherever you need it.

Similarly, parents can apply the same technique at home, it has been tried out and it was very successful.

Another sign that helps a lot is the Quiet sign. I keep it handy in different spots to have my hand on it whenever I need it.

Please, remember to model whenever you can along with the previous examples.

*Again, it is never enough to emphasize the importance of pictures. Kids with autism have great visual skills.


Please, remember to thank the child every time she/he responds positively to your request. Show appreciation.

For example, if you call on child on the playground to line up and the child obeys, tell her/him “Thank you for coming!” It is very likely that the desired behavior will repeat.

Mrs. A

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