It is that phase that parents and teachers of pre-teens boys dread. What can we do to decrease the embarrassing habit some boys have of sticking their hand in their pants? Concerns about inappropriate social behaviors for youngsters with autism seem to increase as adolescence moves in.
One parent expressed the concern many of us have felt when she said, “I can’t believe he just sticks his hands in his pants even when we are in the store or when he is sitting in class.” She reported that telling him to stop just seems to make things worse. Here are some strategies that folks have found useful to address this socially inappropriate habit.
WARDROBE: One strategy that has proven particularly effective in stopping “hands in pants” is that of having the youngster wear blue jeans that are fitted at the waist. Pair the jeans with a substantial belt. Because some teens with autism can unbuckle a belt, some parents and teachers put the buckle of the belt in the back, making it somewhat inaccessible. Loose fitting sweatpants, gym shorts, or other elastic waist pants are more comfortable than jeans, but just don’t work at this phase of life.
DISTRACTIONS: Be proactive and anticipate the behavior. Keep your youngster busy and his hands occupied by having him hold items for you, push the grocery cart, play hand-held games, twiddle his thumbs, hold a texturized item or one of the squishy balls used for exercise, or hold his own small photo flip album with pictures of his family and friends.
DON’T SAY DON’T: Respond to inappropriate behavior in a calm but direct manner. When the behavior occurs, tell the youngster what you DO want rather than what you DON’T want. Just calmly and quietly say, “Put your hands on your knees” or “Fold your hands now.” There is a more detailed discussion of this concept, “Don’t Say Don’t” on the In-Depth Issues section of our website. Click on “In-Depth Issues” at www.FAQAutism.com
TIP FOR THE DAY: Adolescence brings lots of joys and lots of headaches. We just need to be diligent in addressing inappropriate behaviors calmly and consistently.
NOTE TO READERS AND LISTENERS: I am Cathy Knoll, a board certified music therapist and long-time friend of many folks with autism. At FAQautism.com we are committed to providing free, practical, everyday tips for making life better for people with autism. Feel free to send me a confidential email at talk@FAQautism.com with your thoughts or challenging situations or innovative solution. And don’t forget to check out our website for a wealth of ideas and a glimpse into the world of autism. http://FAQautism.com