When Your Autistic Child Does Not Have Impulse Control

Miriam Gwynne by Miriam Gwynne Additional Needs

Miriam Gwynne

Miriam Gwynne

Full time mum and carer for two truly wonderful autistic twins. I love reading, writing, walking, swimming and encouraging others. Don’t struggle a...

Before I got him out the door he HAD to switch the light switch on and off a few times. He HAD to touch every car parked beside me. He HAD to slam his door shut even though I reminded him to close it gently.

He HAD to turn my radio on before I could make sure his seatbelt was fastened and then as I drive he HAD to open and close his window despite me asking him not to.

If he sees something he wants to do he just can't stop himself.

Once I park the car he HAD to slam the door shut again..despite being told not to. He HAD to push my wing mirror in even though he saw me watching and he HAD to run despite the fact I held onto him tightly.

You have already decided I need to discipline him more.

You have already deemed me an unfit mum.

You have already no doubt branded him 'naughty'.

In actual fact my child has autism and he also has absolutely no impulse control whatsoever. The latter is what makes raising him the most challenging.

In the shop if he saw a wonderful neatly stacked display on the shop floor his instinct would be to knock it over like a tower of bricks.

He would then laugh so wildly at his antics while I meanwhile would want the floor to open up and swallow me whole!

No amount of warnings, being punished or talking to him works. For some children on the spectrum impulse control is just something that they will never really gain.

They live in the moment. They can't always predict danger or what might happen.

Their sensory needs are so overwhelming they take precedence over what you and I would see as common sense. They see and they do.

At home if I make myself a cup of tea my son just itches to knock the mug on the floor. He simply can't NOT do it.

It is incredibly frustrating but part of his challenges and something we have all had to learn to live with.

I could smack my child every single time (for the record I would never dream of doing this) and still he would never learn impulse control. He just doesn't have it yet, end of.

He will punch and slap his sister with no understanding this hurts. He may cry later when given a row but he will just go right back and do it again and again.

Without impulse control he can not use self control to stop himself.

If he sees an open window he has to throw something out it.

He HAS to go into every toilet and put taps on. The sensory fulfilment this gives him overrides completely any fact that I consistently tell him this is not allowed.

I may as well be talking in a foreign language because even if he understands later that it was wrong, without impulse control he will still do it again and again.

He can not see an open door and just leave it. No, he HAS to go close it...even on someone's face!

If he sees buttons he HAS to press them regardless where we are!

Books shops are a disaster as he gets great delight from knocking them all down like dominos. Buffets are hard as he can not self regulate the amount he can actually manage to eat.

Food shopping is a huge challenge as without impulse control he would think nothing of picking up the fruit on display and eating it!

If he helps me push the trolley (as a means of containing him) he thinks nothing of ramming everyone in sight.

For the record he is disciplined, he is taught right from wrong just the same as his sister.

What people need to understand though is until a child is cognitively ready to understand the consequences of their actions there is only so much a parent can do.

It is also worth remembering that many adults also struggle with lack of impulse control in areas of eating, spending and alcohol consumption for example and they do not have the level of difficulties my son has.

I am doing my best but one things is certain and that is: no matter where I take my son it will be obvious to everyone that he clearly lacks impulse control.

I hope it is just as obvious that until the penny drops for him I will continue to teach him and guide him as best as I can.

It just may take much longer than I would like.


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