10 Tips for the Autism Time-Out

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I have 3 kids.  3 kids that are in the process of learning.  Some choices they make are GREAT.  Some choices they make they need to learn from.  Autism or not, all 3 kids face time-out for behavior they need to learn from.  It is important for my kids to see everyone in time-out for the same offenses.  For example, it is never okay to hit in this house.  By anyone. Hitting is an automatic time-out.  EVERYONE goes into time-out, BUT time-out may look a little different for anyone.   Here are our 10 tips for the Autism Time-Out.



    that is where out youngest son with Autism goes for time-out.  We let him know, “NO (HIT).  TIME OUT.”  He becomes very upset.  So we frame the situation for his mind.  We are not trying to exacerbate an already upset child.  We are trying to teach him what he did was wrong.  So, he goes to time-out.  On Calm Down Couch.  After losing his speech and not being able to communicate effectively, he reverts back to frustration and anger very quickly.  So we have a behavior we want to end, coupled with anger for being put in time-out.  That is when he goes to Calm Down Couch.


    At a young age, our sons Occupational Therapist told us time-out would look different for him.  Once he is there, he will be upset and mad.  BUT HE IS THERE.  He knows it is for a behavior we want to change.  He will jump in the chair.  He will need to bounce in the chair.  He will collapse in tears.  He is there.  It is successful.


    This is a tool.  A resource.  Our youngest fidgets.  He has a hard time sitting still.  So give him a tool.  He is almost 5, so thinking putty (putty with a purpose!  It is something to help keep his hands busy and his body in time out).  For older kids who fidget, toys like a Rubik’s Cube can help.  Something to help keep the body work with the mind.  And vise versa.


    I gotta admit – I found this one online when I went searching for other ideas.  And I think it is great.  I know that when I need my son to calm down at a grocery store our other type of outing, I hand him a lollipop.  Sucking on a lollipop is a great calming technique.  But let’s face it, I don’t want to reward anyone in time-out!  A lollipop is awesome!  So, when I found this idea for the dragon breather, I thought it was top-notch and my younger kids love it.  It’s effective in getting them to calm the angry time out feeling and fun at the same time.  Win, win!

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    How to effectively stop unwanted behavior.  BE CONSISTENT.  For EVERYONE!


    We are very clear in our house what warrants a time out.  We are very clear what rewards are.  We have meetings every morning to talk about what we are doing that day.  We have meetings to discuss who successfully made it through the previous day with 3 times out or less.  If you had that success, do you want to have breakfast for your dinner?  Do you want control of the TV from 4-5?  Do you want to go out for a water ice with daddy at 7?  You earn this success, you pick!  And we talk about your success.  Another win, win!


    A least favorite, for sure, for my youngest.  Right next to the potty picture.  But it helps to get him to understand what will happen if he (hits).  I use one like this, but taking a picture of him in time-out and putting in our visual system is what we will be doing next.

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  • TIMER – 

    There are a lot of timers out there, and waiting for one to ding, or watching one move is an effective tool for some.  Our older kids get 5 minutes for each time out.  They know the time they can get out.  For our youngest, we feel a 3 minute time out is a success.  We must sit with him and help keep him on calm down couch until time is up.  Here is a picture of the Time Timer, recommended for kids with ADHD and Autism.

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    The words “time out” are familiar to all my kids and they know the feelings associated with being detected for doing something wrong.  If we are at a store or in the car and a behavior happens we want to end, they still get a “time out.”  These are a tad different.  Yes, we keep the kids safe, but they will not get attention.  It is very clearly designated and ended when time is up.


    Remember that lollipop that my kids get to help calm them?  Or the dragon breather?  A harmonica in time out is a great tool too.  There is no way I am giving them a whistle, but the act of breathing in, breathing out will help calm your child when they are time-out upset.  My 2 youngest children love music – they love to make music.  It is perfect.  Here are some other activities to help oral stimulation to help regulate mood.


    My youngest is the best at this.  Which tells me the school he goes to works with him on this as well.  He is not the best with letters or numbers, but he can breathe to a five count, and it is great.  He has learned deep breathing as a coping skill.  Perfect!

Some behaviors need to change.  I want all my kids to understand some behaviors are not okay for anyone.  We are all held responsible for our choices.  We praise the great choices and we learn from the ones we want to change.

How about you?  How do you handle behaviors you want to change?  How do you handle time-outs?  Let me know!




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