5. Cheat. This only works if what folks are upset about is a game but I often play games with families who are often upset about said game. Common scenario… Child: *cheats* Sibling: HEY YOU’RE CHEATING. Parent: WE DO NOT CHEAT IN THIS HOUSE. Child: Rules are stupid. Me: OK, let’s just all play without rules. Then it’s not cheating, right? Also me: *takes cheating to a crazy extreme until the child wants to use rules again*
6. Use props. A fellow clinician once randomly began straightening her hair at a teen’s nearby vanity to distract her and her mother from continuing an argument. Both the teen and mom were laughing too much to fight!
7. Flips and spins. A favorite of dads everywhere… pick up a small child and spin them around or flip them upside down. Young kids, especially Autistic children, tend to enjoy this type of proprioceptive input. Obviously, this should be a child that is comfortable with both you and physical contact.
8. Do something fun. Instead of engaging in conflict or ‘meltdowns,’ quietly start coloring, playing a game, or do some other preferred activity of the child or family in their field of vision. They are likely to join.
9. Roleplay. Channel your inner angsty teen if yours starts to give you attitude. This can be a good technique for a teen that is prone to irritability and ‘pouting’ but not explosive or aggressive behavior. For a young child who is learning to be more independent, pretend that you forgot how to ties shoes, clean up toys, etc. and have them show you.
10. Seemingly random metaphors. Alternatively, channel your inner Yoda. A coworker of mine worked with a dad who was really fantastic at using his child’s ADHD to their advantage. For example, the child once went off-topic in a family session by talking about rainbow unicorns. The dad joined in and eventually likened the child to a unicorn. This helped them return to the conversation about the child’s challenges with trust and self-esteem.
Jordan is a licensed social worker in Ohio (USA). She speaks professionally at conferences and student organizations about neurodiversity, neuroinclusivity, and Autistic culture. She also offers customised staff trainings for a variety of organisations.