Challenging Behavior of Autistic Children: Insights for Parents


As the parent of an autistic child, you may be all too familiar with challenging behavior. While it can be difficult to manage at times, there are things you can do to help your child cope with their challenges. In this blog post, we'll explore some of the causes of challenging behavior in autistic children and offer some tips for parents. We hope you find this information helpful as you navigate the challenges of parenting an autistic child. Let's get started


As a parent of an autistic child, it's normal to feel frustration when your child exhibits defiant behavior. However, understanding what might be driving this type of behavior can help you create strategies that both satisfy your expectations and meet your child's needs. Knowing their triggers, developing effective communication and reinforcement methods, and making sure they understand your expectations are all key elements in responding to defiance that can make a big difference in reducing the incidence of difficult behavior. With patience, insight, and an open mind you can effectively manage the challenges that come with autism and help improve the quality of life for your entire family.


When it comes to behavior challenges in children with autism, aggression is one of the most severe. If you’re a parent dealing with aggression in your autistic child, know that there are ways to manage this issue and make progress. Aggression can manifest in several ways, ranging from physical behaviors such as hitting and biting to verbal outbursts such as shouting or swearing. Understanding the behavior’s causes and triggers can help caregivers create specialized strategies to address each situation. Start by involving your child in the process, using positive reinforcement for successful interventions and gentle redirection for times when individual approaches fail. Above all, stay calm so your child does not become overwhelmed—knowing that you are “in control” gives them a sense of security. Together you can work towards implementing positive changes and helping your child decrease aggressive behavior overall.

Fecal smearing

Potty training autistic children can create a whole new set of challenges. Some of the challenges with potty training are dealing with the possibility of fecal smearing and stool withholding. Fecal smearing is the act of deliberately spreading their feces on walls, floors, and furniture. Stool withholding is when they refuse to go to the toilet or hold in their stool for long periods of time. Uncontrollable impulses to engage in this behavior can cause distress to the family and may be the result of stress or arousal triggered as the child attempts to gain a sense of control over their environment. Parents need to be understanding and patient, providing for the child’s holistic needs - including emotional, sensory, and physical needs - in order to help them have success mastering the skills necessary for potty training without the occurrence of fecal smearing.


We all know that self-injury is one of the most difficult behaviors to manage in autistic children. While it can feel overwhelming for parents, it's important to understand the underlying causes of this behavior in order to find ways to help your child cope and lead a better life. We have many years of experience helping families manage challenging behavior and can provide you with insights and strategies that may be effective for your particular situation. We believe every person should have access to the necessary resources and coping skills they need – regardless of their financial situation or disability – which is why we strive to provide as much support as possible. Working together, we can help make your child safer, healthier, and happier.

Property destruction 

When your child with autism displays property destruction, it doesn't have to be a negative experience - although it can shape how you feel in the moment. Instead, take an approach of understanding and reframing the behavior. Ask yourself if your child is trying to communicate a need, or just acting out due to sensory overwhelm or stress. Try approaching the situation from an ‘I wonder’ standpoint in order to open up a dialogue rather than punishment; this will lead to more success and make the entire encounter easier for everyone involved. With the correct strategies and guidance, parents can not only manage their autistic child’s behavior but even use it as an opportunity for growth and connection.

Running away 

It can be understandably stressful for any parent when their child runs away, but this is particularly true for parents of autistic children. Running away is a form of challenging behavior that autistic children may engage in as a way to cope with feelings of overwhelm or distress. For example, they may run away from loud noises or situations that are too crowded. It’s important for parents to consider the factors and motivations behind this type of behavior and use understanding and compassion to help their children through whatever difficulty they’re facing. It can be tempting to react with anger or frustration, but instead, it’s recommended that parents stay calm and work on identifying the challenge or barrier underlying the desire to run away. These insights can provide useful guidance in working together with your child toward positive solutions in the future.

Not speaking or making eye contact

Many children with autism struggle with not speaking or making eye contact when interacting with others, and this can be a source of frustration for parents. To better understand, it's helpful to consider that those on the autism spectrum often have difficulty interpreting social cues and the world around them in a typical way. They may not be able to pick up on communication signals like vocal inflection or visual clues, so their responses are delayed or even absent. This can feel like an immense hurdle for parents who want to connect but don't know how. Fortunately, there are many resources available to help families recognize challenging behaviors, learn tools for managing them, and find strategies for promoting healthy communication. With some patience, determination, and understanding from parents, autistic children can reach their full potential—and beyond!

As parents of children with autism, it’s important to remember that difficult behaviors are often a sign of distress or confusion. While these behaviors can feel overwhelming, there is hope and help available. With the right resources and support from experienced professionals, you can learn how to better understand your child's needs and find solutions for managing challenging behavior in ways that promote connection rather than disconnection between parent and child. By partnering together we can work towards creating an environment where autistic children have access to necessary resources so they may reach their full potential—and beyond!

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