Personal Space Conflict and Strategies for ASD Children and their Siblings

The greatest conflict in our home was our ASD son's invasion of personal and physical spaces of his siblings and parents. He either invaded the personal space surrounding his siblings or he violated their rooms to take things that did not belong to him. He clearly knew he should not do this because when he hid them in his room, he hid them incredibly well. Thus, I learned how to become a master sleuth.

As is true for many children on the autism spectrum, they do not have the inner voice that tells them they are standing too close, speaking too loud or inappropriate in their responses. You as a parent must determine what is the comfortable standing distance for your child to speak with you and others. I would generally say an arm's length is good. Then, you must reinforce this repeatedly. Even at 18 years old, I still prompt our son when he violates this space. If you have to, make a physical object to help him measure this distance and provide a constant visual reminder.

To protect the limits of his siblings rooms, for a time, we signed the spaces with "Do Not Enter". If we had to, I would have provided exterior locking systems. Our ASD son was told that if he did take something, he would lose a personal object that belonged to him, and he would have no say in which object he would lose.

So, what can you do to your environment to help with these issues? If I were designing a new home, I would place my ASD child's room on the opposite end of the house from his or her siblings' rooms. This keeps the temptation away. I would widen all hallways and paths to allow more room to circulate without invasion of personal space. I would use hardwood flooring on the second floor to hear the footsteps of my ASD child to know where he ir she is, and if feasible, I would include two staircases to be able to manage circulation without conflict.

What's the lesson? Reduce conflict wherever possible for the sanity of the whole family and understand that an ASD child can be very clever as mine is! Thank goodness he is funny too.