Fact sheet: information on behavioral communication issues with a child with Autism, a common Autism Spectrum Disorder


Managing behaviors in the context of autism or Asperger's syndrome can be very difficult, and it is natural to want to express our frustration at non-compliance and resort to punishment. However, concentrating on positive language and providing alternatives will increase the chances of modeling more appropriate behaviors.

Consequential management is a positive response to challenging behavior. It serves to give the person informed choice. It gives the person an opportunity to learn. Consequences exist within our society, and we live with the consequences of our actions on a daily basis. For example, if we speed and are caught, the consequence is more than likely to be that we will get a speeding ticket. The use of consequential management is a positive response to behavior, it allows a person informed choice and an opportunity for learning.


Consequences must be clearly related to the challenging behavior. For example, if a glass of water was thrown and the glass smashed, the logical consequence would be for the person to clean up the mess and replace the glass. If an unrelated punishment was enforced, such as not being able to go to the movies the next day, the child will probably not be able to see or understand the link, and the learning benefits of the process would be lost.


The six elements that form the basis for successful consequential management are-
• Define your expectations of appropriate behavior
• Link consequences to behavior
• Use appropriate language
• Allow informed choice- what will happen with the behavior chosen
• Use of positive reinforcement for appropriate behavior
• Be aware of timing


Providing choice and alternative ways to behave

Providing choices is very important and parents can set limits by giving alternatives that are related to a behavior they are seeking. It is important that the alternative is stated in a positive way and that words are used which convey that the person has a choice. For example:


Not so good way

“If you don't cut that out you'll have to leave the room.”

Better way

“You can watch TV quietly or leave the room.”


Follow through with the consequences and giver assurances.


testing the consequences - the need for consistency

When individuals are given a choice they may decide to ‘test’ their parent, just to see what they can get away with, or how serious they are, about their request. It is important for parents to be consistent, which in turn teaches the individual about the consequences of their behavior. When a consequence is implemented, it is often helpful to reassure the person that they may “try again” another time. Remember a person may choose to test the consequences of a behavior several times.


Not so good way

“I told you that you would have to leave the room if you didn't cut it out. Maybe this will teach you a lesson.”

Better way

“You decided to leave the room. You can choose to come back when you are ready to watch the television quietly.”


extend the time

An child may test parents several times by repeating the undesired behavior.


Not so good way

“How many times do I have to tell you to cut it out or leave the room? I’ve had it, you’re no longer allowed in the TV room.”

Better way

“I see that you are still not ready to settle down, therefore you'll have to leave the room. You can try again tomorrow night.”


It is important to be firm yet calm in reaffirming these statements. Sometimes, if an individual perceives that there is emotion in a person’s voice, they may believe that they have achieved their desired result (to get attention and attract a response from parents). If the individual perceives anger, they may see the request as a punishment, no matter how logical it may seem. Punishment removes the responsibility for the individual’s behavior away from them and the onus to correct the behavior is placed on the staff member.


communication and consequences

Ask the person to do things in a way that shows you expect them to do it.


Eg: “Fred, the rubbish is ready to go out to the bin. Thanks for doing that.”


Expect that there is going to be a gap, especially if it takes a while to process the information due to autism or Asperger's. It might be beneficial to walk away, and let the person think about the request.


praise and reinforce appropriate behaviors

Look for opportunities to notice your child is displaying appropriate behaviors. This may involve really having to look, and it is important to focus on what your child did do, rather than what he or she didn't do.


For example, if the person does not swear at anyone during dinner, take the opportunity to say “Your behavior has been really respectful.” It is important to keep requests and statements to short sentences, rather than going into too much detail about what about his behavior was respectful, good etc.


some key points for success

• Behavior does not change overnight and it is important to be persistent and hang in there.

• Family, teachers, therapists - everyone needs to apply the consequences uniformly

• The person should see that the consequences for his/her behavior are fair

• Plain language, clear communications and non-judgmental attitude are important
• Reward appropriate behavior with positive reinforcement.


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Consequential management is a positive response to challenging behavior which can be a useful strategy for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders