Issue No. 25, February 2010

Coming next month – updated and expanded
1001 Great Ideas for Teaching and Raising Children with Autism or Asperger’s

By Ellen Notbohm and Veronica Zysk
Foreword by Temple Grandin, Ph.D.

“Genuine, commonsense advice that all parents and educators can quickly and easily use!”

TEMPLE GRANDIN, PH.D., autism expert and self-advocate, and author of The Way I See It: A Personal Look at Autism and Asperger’s

“I was amazed at the number and quality of ideas, and strongly recommend that parents read and apply the advice. I learned some really good ideas!”

TONY ATTWOOD, PH.D., author of The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome

Excerpt from Chapter 3, Behavior

Consequential learning. The terms consequence and punishment are sometimes used interchangeably but they are not at all the same thing. Consequences are either natural or adult-applied results of actions or words. Punishment is retributive, intended to hurt or shame. Consequences are valuable life lessons in accountability, teaching the child the role of self-control in making good choices. Punishment attempts to squash behavior without addressing the source, and through means that too frequently foster anger, hatred and humiliation, none of which are conducive to furthering social awareness and encouraging emotional connection with others.

Natural consequences remove you as the instrument of unpleasantness. Some examples of natural consequences: he refuses to eat his dinner; he’s hungry later. He doesn’t put his ball back in the bin; the puppy chews it to bits. The natural consequences of these actions may be powerful motivators for behavior change. Just keep in mind:

  • Natural consequences will not result in behavior change if you sabotage the consequence. If you let him eat later, if you buy him a new ball, not only has the child not learned the natural consequence of his behavior, but you have reinforced the careless behavior by accommodating it.

  • Never permit natural consequences of a dangerous nature to transpire. Take the knife away before he slices his finger off, ditto for the matches before he burns his fingers, or worse.

Applied consequences are those you impose when natural consequences aren’t present. Most of us are familiar with positive consequences, the idea of a reward or reinforcer for appropriate behavior or performance, and negative consequences, the removal of a privilege or other desired circumstance for unacceptable behavior or performance. Another form of applied consequence is the logical consequence, and for our concrete-thinking kiddos, it may be the most effective applied consequence. The logical consequence ties the consequence to the unacceptable action: if he throws his toys, he has to put the thrown toy plus another one in toy jail for two days. If he doesn’t do chore X, he either does double chores next time, or forfeits part of his allowance. (Ellen says: if your child values his money, you will not believe how effective this is!)

Tips for presenting consequences effectively: 

  • Formulating effective consequences takes effort and planning. Give thought to your child’s behaviors and plan how you will address them as they come up.

  • Consequences that are too harsh or too lenient will not be effective. Calibrate the consequence to the crime.

  • Don’t bother imposing any consequence on which you will not be able to follow through consistently. You know how rigid and routine-bound your child is. Ignore the behavior once, and you may be back at square one. For this reason, all adults involved must be aware of the consequence and willing to enforce it.

  • Give it time. Changing behavior is a process, not an event. It’s unrealistic to expect behavior to change overnight or at the first imposition of consequences.

  • Give a consequence with empathy, not anger. Speak directly to your child in a calm tone of voice. Meting out your consequence with anger, disappointment, dismay or shock shifts the focus from his actions to your feelings, and to how your feelings make him feel.

  • Check for comprehension – make sure he understands why the consequence is being imposed, and what he can do next time to avoid it.

  • Consequences must be relevant. You can threaten to take away her new shoes if she wipes boogers on them, but if she doesn’t care about the shoes to begin with, the consequence has no meaning.

  • Post a written set of house rules to help him become independent and avoid negative consequences.

  • Before vocalizing the rule, be sure you have your child’s attention. Calling out from a room away, “It’s time to set the table” isn’t effective behavior management.

  • If you choose to give warnings, one is sufficient, unless you have reason to believe your child did not hear you or did not understand you the first time. Too many warnings send the message you don’t mean what you’re saying.

Join Ellen on Facebook

Become a fan of Ellen’s Author page, read her latest articles and commentary, and exchange thoughts and ideas with readers around the world.

This month’s column: Journey to Independence: Guiding your child with autism to adulthood

The third week in January marked National Autism Consciousness Week in The Philippines, where I hear from an increasing number of parents and teachers on a regular basis. Any autism awareness event is a great opportunity to remind ourselves and everyone else that our children with autism do grow up to join the community as adults. Helping your child become a capable, independent and self-confident adult starts now. This column, which has been second only to Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew in popularity over the last several years.

“It’s a beautiful vision on the horizon – your child with autism child all grown up, a capable and independent adult. When our children are young, that horizon can seem very far away indeed. How will we get there? What should I be doing now?” 

Read the article and join the discussion!

More articles on Facebook:

Yes, it IS Your Problem.  Parents and teachers have an obligation to work together for the benefit of all children. Are school relationships productive – or poisonous?

Ready for K...and Beyond.  It’s almost that time of year again – kindergarten roundup! This can be a huge transition for both parent and child. Here’s how to make it smooth.

More reads

Nice Work of You Can Get It
January-February 2010

Most of us genealogists do it because we love it; we are seldom paid for what is often tedious, painstaking work. We may be living in the wrong century.

Children’s Voice

Exceptional Children: Navigating Special Education and Learning Differences

And Wellness for All, November-December 2009

Physical activity is critically important cognitive, social and emotional health as well. Many children with cognitive and motor learning differences face even greater challenges than their typically-developing peers. Impairments to sensory processing, social cueing and language processing can impede a child’s ability to participate in a general PE class or in team sports. In many cases, these impairments may have little to do with gross motor skills.

Rule Number One: Ask for Help, January-February 2010

Many students are reluctant to ask for help, even when it’s greatly needed. Why is asking for help so difficult? Many students don’t want to “look dumb,” and many simply don’t know how. Take steps now to teach your child that everyone needs help, and teach him how to master this critical life skill.

New on the website:
Teaching Concentration Skills

For parents, foster parents and teachers of girls, Responding to Girls' Needs: Improving outcomes for at-risk girls through gender-specific programming by Sorrel Concodora is worth the read.  Girls with autism or Asperger’s, with their communication and social skills challenges, are at even greater risk than their more typical peers to run afoul of relationships and the law.  This article illuminates a little-discussed social reality and what’s being done to address it.

Healing’s  Special Focus: Autism issue is now online and includes two of my articles.

Ever the Optimist looks back on my years of raising a child on the spectrum and answering the question I am constantly asked: how do you maintain your optimistic attitude? To me, it’s the only approach that makes sense.

All’s Fair? discusses how to teach the very difficult, abstract and often ephemeral concept of fairness and conflict resolution to our concrete-thinking children with autism. It’s actually a good discussion for all children – of all ages.

Read them here.

Healing is a (free) semi-annual publication offering education and insight to mental health professionals, educators and parents. To join the mailing list, click here.

MetroKids Philadelphia
December 2009 

Put Kids’ Autism Sleep Issues to Rest

Of all difficulties associated with autism, ADHD and related disabilities, sleep disturbances are among the most vexing. In order to best address sleep problems, it’s important to first define them.
Help Your Autistic Child Succeed in School
How to work with the school to improve education and school life for your autistic child.
by Patti Ghezzi

In this interview with, Ellen Notbohm lays out guidelines for forging successful school-family partnerships.

Special Parents
Winter 2009
The Other Side of the Desk: Are you a challenging parent?

This is the launch issue, from the publishers of Baton Rouge Parent, and includes articles on the importance of dads, advocating for your child, sensing trouble, creating friendships and more. Read the issue online here.

Polish translation of Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew now available.

For sale online at

Edmonton Economic Development Corporation picked up my  2008 Ancestry story, With Both Feet on the Ground, describing the warm welcome I received when historical research first brought me to a city I quickly fell in love with. 

Read my story and many others about this vibrant history- and-art-saturated prairie city on their website.

Book excerpts on website

Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew
from Chapter 8: Please Help Me with Social Interactions

Ten Things Your Student with Autism Wishes You Knew
In its entirety, Chapter 3: I Think Differently

1001 Great Ideas for Teaching and Raising Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders 
from Chapter 2: The Limits of My World – Visual Strategies
New excerpt from 2nd edition coming next month!

The Autism Trail Guide: Postcards from the Road Less Traveled
from Postcards from the Homefront: I Sound Like My Mother – I Hope!

My funny valentine...

Mark and I met on February 10, 1979. These photos, taken more than 30 years apart, prove that some good things stay the same. 

February 10th has always been our own private Valentine’s Day. Enjoy this mid-winter celebration of love, in whatever manner you choose! Read my perennial Valentine’s column, Three Little Words.

Newsletter archive: if you are new to our newsletter community, please visit the newsletter archive on my website and browse some popular past features at my newsletter archive

If you’ve read my books and feel inclined to share your thoughts with others, please consider posting a review on my book pages at It’s easy to do and you don’t have to post your real name.

Please forward this newsletter to anyone you feel might share an interest in our kids with autism. New subscribers can sign up at here.

©201o Ellen Notbohm | Third Variation Strategies

Fan me! Keep up with my latest on Facebook
Please join me on my author page on Facebook. This is where you’ll find the latest news, dialogue and preaching ;o) about all the subjects my work encompasses. Become a fan, post your comments and share your ideas. See you there!

This month’s column: Guiding your child with autism to adulthood

Visit my revamped website at
Book excerpts, articles, foreign translations, newsletter archive. Updated for easier navigation and search, more content and a news blog to keep things current. Come visit and tell me what you think and what you’d like to see. The most popular articles on the site this month: 

Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew

Ten Things Your Student with Autism Wishes You Knew

Three Little Words

You Otter Have a Totem

Learning to Say “Sorry”

Food Moods

I always answer my email.
But we live in a world of imperfect servers, aggressive spam filters and power outages. If you’ve written to me and I haven’t answered, please try resending your message with a different subject heading.

Ellen's website and
emails are designed
by DBD+A