Whether at home, in school, or in day-to-day social life, we want our children to behave well and have the best chance to succeed. It is not uncommon for any child to have impulsive behavior here and there, but when our kids are chronically acting out, it becomes a problem.
These impulsive behaviors can be caused or exacerbated by Autism Spectrum Disorder, so for children with ASD, getting impulsive behaviors under control is even more critical.
In this guide to supporting a child with impulsive behavior, we’ll cover the following:
- What causes impulsive behavior in my child?
- Examples of impulsive behaviors in children
- What does impulsivity look like in autism?
- How to support a child with impulsive behavior
- Autism treatment and correcting impulsive behaviors
We know it can be frustrating to see your child acting out, but the proper resources and a structured plan can reign in these behaviors and reduce day-to-day stress.
What Causes Impulsive Behavior in My Child?
It is easy to dismiss outbursts and impulsive behaviors in children as ‘kids being kids’ – but only to a certain point. Even some of the true culprits of impulsive behavior – such as Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), are used as an armchair diagnosis until it is apparent that something else is going on.
Realistically, a wide range of behavioral impediments must be properly diagnosed and treated if your child is acting chronically impulsive. These causes include:
- Mental illness
- Developmental delays
These are just some causes of impulsive behaviors in young children or toddlers. Every person is unique, and to get proper treatment for impulsive behavior, we recommend seeing a behavioral specialist or an ABA clinician if your child has autism.
Examples of Impulsive Behaviors in Children
Though every one of our children is unique and can have a wide range of impulsive behaviors, there are a few tell-tale signs of chronically acting impulsively.
These examples of rash behaviors in kids include:
1. Blurting something out or interrupting someone
2. Hitting or biting a peer as a reaction
3. Running across the street without looking
4. Elopement or wandering
5. Breaking something they are frustrated with
6. Having trouble focusing or taking turns
These are just some signs that a child has poor impulse control. It is important to start documenting the frequency and settings that your child displays these symptoms so that you can adequately communicate what is happening to a therapist or ABA clinician.
What Does Impulsivity Look Like in Autism?
Another potential cause of impulsive behaviors in children can include autism and the impediments associated with it. For children with autism, their response to certain stimuli may lead them to impulsive behaviors as coping mechanisms or ways to lash out in uncomfortable situations.
For children with autism, poor impulse control can often be attributed to:
- Hyperfocus on a task or environment
- Comorbid ADHD or other behavioral disorders
- Negative stimuli response
- Executive dysfunction
These contributing factors might lead a child with autism to have poor impulse control. Ultimately, the behavioral outputs will be very similar to any other person with impulse issues. Still, how we treat and prevent impulsivity in children with autism may vary slightly. Always consult your ABA therapist or clinician about the best way to integrate behavioral changes into an ABA framework.
How to Support a Child With Impulsive Behavior
To help support your impulsive child, it is critical to teach them to manage their behavior for the long term. Sometimes, just making your child aware of their actions is a great catalyst to get them to change. Other times, you can help them with techniques such as:
1. Be specific when communicating instructions or corrections to behavior
2. Ask your child to describe their emotions when they act impulsively
3. Teach problem-solving skills to children
4. Provide structure around environments and behaviors that cause impulsivity
5. Deep breathing techniques to slow down thoughts and actions
6. Prioritize correcting significant impulsive behaviors – correct minor issues later
It is important to treat impulsive behavior control as a skill and create ongoing efforts that can be measured. If you are just noticing your child’s impulsive behavior, try to track the environments or stimuli that seem to provoke it. If you are already working with behavioral clinicians or ABA therapists, communicate about what you see at home, school, or other environments.
Autism Treatment and Correcting Impulsive Behavior
ABA therapy for autism is considered the gold standard for treatment in both children and adults. This is important for correcting impulsive behavior because ABA therapy is an evidence-based treatment that generalizes corrective behaviors across multiple environments in your child’s life.
This means ABA therapy is extra beneficial for working on impulsive behavior in children with autism because they thrive on routine. When we can establish familiar responses to a range of behaviors and outcomes will make it easier for your child to control their behavior on a day-to-day basis. ABA therapists use several applicable techniques, such as play therapy, DTT, and many other treatments that incorporate positive reinforcement.
Ultimately, a high-quality ABA clinic and its therapists can effectively help your child with autism manage their impulsive behavior.
Ally Pediatric Therapy is Arizona’s Leading Autism Clinic
At Ally Pediatric Therapy, our goal is to help children with autism, and their families maximize their long-term potential. Correcting impulsive behaviors can be difficult and frustrating, but it is easier when you have an experienced team of professionals to help you through every step.
If you want to enroll your child in ABA therapy for autism or learn more about how one of our specialists can help your family today, please get in touch with us for a free consultation. We’d love to help.