My clients are always asking questions about how to manage Autistic rigidity, and it isn’t always easy.
On one hand, you want to accommodate their need for control. On the other hand, you want to help them to be able to be flexible sometimes.
And we all know the world won’t let them dictate everything, so how the heck are we supposed to advocate for our kids?
“Sorry, my kid just has to get their way all the time. Thanks for understanding. 🤷♀️”
Yeah. Freaking. Right.
So today I’m sharing 3 simple strategies to manage Autistic rigidity so that you can meet your child where they’re at and set them up to navigate our society that wasn’t built for them.
(Pssst: you’re invited to the Rocking Rigidity Workshop exclusively for the Embracing Autism Accelerator clients! Click here to apply!)
3 Simple Strategies to Manage Autistic Rigidity
If we haven’t met yet, hey friend, I’m Kaylene!
I’m an Autistic adult and parent-coach that helps parents of autistic children embrace autism and parent their Autistic child with ease.
So if you’re looking to be able to truly accommodate your child, balance your family life, and create real change through advocacy, feel free to hop over to AutisticMama.com/Apply and fill out the form to access an advanced private training!
Strategy #1: Minimize Rigidity Opportunities
We’ve all had that experience where we’ve done something and almost instantly regretted it because we knew it would suddenly become a super rigid routine we’d have to adhere to for months, right?
It can’t just be me!
And some professionals out there will tell you that you should intentionally disrupt your child’s routine constantly in order to “desensitize” them—and let me be very clear in saying that is the wrong strategy.
All that will do is teach your child that you aren’t on their side at all, you aren’t to be trusted, and they need to hold on even tighter to their rigidity because you will fight them at every turn.
Now there are two ways that I recommend minimizing rigidity opportunities, and by that, I mean basically minimizing the number of times that your child has the opportunity to be overly rigid.
First, you can intentionally avoid “routine-izing” certain events that you aren’t prepared to do regularly.
Second, you can actively “routine-ize” the events that do happen regularly in your family, so that you aren’t battling over the everyday normal activities.
Strategy #2: Meet Rigidity Needs
The next strategy might be a bit counterintuitive, and if you’re in the throws of rigidity right now you might want to throw something at my head…
But to manage your Autistic child’s rigidity, you really need to focus on meeting their rigidity needs.
*ducks and hides*
Here’s the deal… Often times our kids’ rigidity is caused by a lot of anxiety or stress, and when we focus on meeting that need for control, we can relieve some of that stress.
(Related: 3 Reasons are Autistic Kids SO rigid)
And I know that we can’t always meet our children’s rigid needs. Sometimes their demands aren’t safe, or maybe they go against another person’s consent.
But that’s all the more reason to meet our kids’ need for control when we can—so that they have the spoons available to navigate the situations when we can’t.
Strategy #3: Implement Guided Flexibility
Finally, I want to talk about using guided flexibility to manage your Autistic child’s rigidity.
Guided flexibility is when you partner with your child to help them recognize when something they’re being rigid about isn’t possible and navigate that situation.
(Related: I go more in-depth on this strategy in my Balance Retreat Workshops!)
To start with, you’ll want to practice things that truly aren’t possible before moving on to things that aren’t possible because of personal preference.
This will often boil down to two opposing goals, and our job as parents is to come alongside them and guide them as they weigh their options and find solutions.
For example, they might really want to play at their favorite park, but they also don’t want to wear a seatbelt. And it isn’t possible to drive to the park without a seatbelt because it’s #1 illegal and #2 not safe.
So we get to come alongside them and support them through it. We have a ton of options on the table, some more realistic than others, and we get to help them weigh those options and move forward.
And sometimes your child won’t be ready for options, or logic, or even support, and they might have a BIG reaction. That’s okay too.
We can support them through that big reaction (whether it’s a meltdown, aggression, shut down, etc.) and help them navigate the situation later when things calm down.
Ultimately this strategy is about zooming out.
It isn’t about getting them to stop being rigid immediately in the moment about one specific thing, it’s about helping them build the skill of flexibility so that they can recognize when they need to be flexible and start to problem solve in the future.
Now I know you probably still have questions like…
- What do I do when my other kids are constantly giving in to avoid an outburst from my Autistic child?
- How do I handle rigidity around things we HAVE TO do like basic hygiene or seatbelts?
- What do I do when it feels like I can’t bend a rule ONE time or the bent rule is now the only one that matters?
- How should I know when to be flexible and roll with the rigidity and when to stick to my boundaries?
- What can I say when my kid has absolutely no interest in anyone’s opinions but their own?
That’s exactly why I put together a brand new workshop, exclusively for my Embracing Autism Accelerator clients, Rocking Rigidity!
The Rocking Rigidity Workshop will walk you through exactly how to manage your Autistic child’s rigidity without crushing their spirit, causing more meltdowns, or letting a tiny dictator run your entire family.
And this workshop is exclusively for clients in the Embracing Autism Accelerator program, so you can apply here for your invite!