When Autistic adults talk about accepting and understanding Autistic children and Autistic behaviors, parents get pretty stressed…
- So there are just no boundaries?
- So we let our Autistic child dictate everything?
- So we let our Autistic child walk all over us?
But friends, that isn’t actually what Autistics are encouraging you to do.
No one is saying there’s no place for boundaries!
It’s just that sometimes navigating boundaries with your Autistic child looks different than it would with a neurotypical child.
And I’ll be honest… It’s not always easy to do.
So today I’m sharing 3 steps to navigate boundaries with your Autistic child so that you can start setting, communicating, and actually execute boundaries more easily.
3 Steps to Navigate Boundaries With Your Autistic Child
What are Boundaries and Why do Boundaries Matter?
Now, before I dive in, I want to get something really clear…
What exactly are “boundaries”?
Boundaries are invisible lines that communicate what is and isn’t allowed or accepted.
And because they’re invisible, boundaries can be really complicated for some Autistic children to understand.
But boundaries are super important because they help Autistic kids navigate the world without unintentionally harming others.
Also, when done correctly, boundaries help set Autistic kids up for success.
Because when we know the boundaries, we can more easily meet expectations that others have of us.
Step One: Set The Boundaries Together
The first step toward navigating boundaries with your Autistic child is to set the boundaries together.
When we think of boundaries as parents, we think that it’s about us deciding the limits and what is or isn’t acceptable.
But for the boundaries to actually make a difference to your Autistic child, they need to understand the reason for the boundary.
And the easiest way for that to happen is for you to set and agree to the boundaries together.
“But Kaylene, what about when they just need to listen to me?”
I’m going to challenge you, friend, and tell you that if you don’t have a real reason for a boundary, it shouldn’t be a boundary that you hold your Autistic child to.
Step Two: Communicate the Boundaries Clearly
When you are communicating boundaries, think about exactly what you want your child to do.
Because let’s be honest, “be kind” has a whole lot of grey area.
Think about what you can see on a camera lens. What does the boundary look like? Sound like?
Getting as clear as you can will help your child know exactly what is expected of them.
Bonus Points: it means we can’t change up the expectations by accident or because we’re having a bad day.
Once you have created your few boundaries with your child and defined the clear expectations, it’s time to make it visual.
Use real-life pictures if possible, but you could also just draw these out. The most important thing is to make sure there’s a clear, visual reminder of what is expected.
Step Three: Navigate the Boundaries
Even boundaries that are created with your child and communicated clearly will sometimes be crossed.
So how do we navigate the boundaries with our Autistic child when they aren’t followed?
The first thing you’ll want to do is make sure that you get all of the details.
- When was the boundary crossed?
- Who was involved?
- What was happening right before and earlier that day?
- Was there anything different about that day?
Then you’ll want to find out why your child struggled to meet the boundary.
You can use clues from what you’ve already gathered from the details and you can talk to your child.
Sometimes this is just about putting yourself in your child’s shoes and thinking: in that moment, what would make it hard for me to follow our plan?
Now a word of warning… Please do not jump to “because they wanted x” or “because they didn’t want y” as the reason.
While that may appear to be the reason on the surface, I want you to dig a little bit deeper to find WHY they wanted or didn’t want the thing.
Now that you have your guess about why your child is struggling to follow the boundary, it’s time to make a new plan together.
- If they forgot or got distracted, how can you set up reminders or visuals?
- If they were anxious, how can you help them work through that anxiety?
- If the boundaries were unrealistic in the first place, how can you tweak and adjust your expectation?
This process can definitely take time, and there can be quite a few rounds of tweaking, trying the new plan, and tweaking again.
I want you to remember that you are not failing (and neither is your child!) if your child struggles to follow the boundaries the first few times.
Yes, even if they helped create the boundary and are fully in agreement with the boundary.
And if you need someone to be in your corner as you navigate boundaries with your Autistic child or to help you stick with it even when it gets tough, I’m here to cheer you on every step of the way.
Creating and navigating boundaries is something I work with my coaching clients on day after day.
If you want someone who can come alongside you on this journey to help you navigate parenting your Autistic child in a world that just wasn’t built for them, click here to learn how you can work with me.
(Just a heads up… I only take a select few 1:1 coaching clients, and there are only two spots left!)
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