How do I stop my autistic twins from hurting each other?

Boy laying his head on his arm and crying stop autistic twins hurting each other
How do I stop my autistic twins from hurting each other?

A frequent question we get in our community is how do I keep my autistic twins from hurting each other? This can be a particularly difficult situation. When you learned you were having twins, triplets or quadruplets, no doubt you dreamt about how they would be best friends for life.

Raising twins is a unique adventure, but when one or both children are autistic, the journey can come with additional complexities. This behavior can stem from various reasons like sensory overload, communication difficulties, or plain frustration. So, how can we create a safer home for our unique families?

Play detective with your autistic twins

One of the first things to consider when thinking about why your twins may be acting aggressive is understanding their developmental age. Generally, an autistic child may be more like a child who is 2-3 years younger than their chronological age is. So, if your 4 year old twins are autistic, they may only have the social and emotional development of 2 year olds and will need appropriate supervision. From that standpoint, you may find it is best to have either close supervision or some form of separation, such as one twin going with a friend or relative for the morning.

Next, try to understand what may be causing challenging behavior. Spend time observing closely to understand what triggers aggressive behavior. Are they fighting over the same toy? Does one child get overwhelmed by too much noise or light? By identifying these patterns, you can start to predict and prevent conflicts before they get out of control. Keeping a journal of these incidents can be incredibly helpful, allowing you to spot trends and modify routines or environments to reduce triggers.

Putting autistic twins needs first

For many autistic children, the world can be a barrage of overwhelming sensory experiences. Creating a sensory-friendly environment can help ease some of this stress. Simple changes can make a big difference such as noise-canceling headphones, weighted blankets, or fidget toys. Create a calm, clutter-free space where they can retreat when things get too much, such as soft lighting and a reduction in loud, sudden noises. These adjustments can create a safe place where your twins feel more at ease.

Consistency is key for many autistic children, a predictable routine can offer a sense of security, reducing anxiety and the likelihood of aggression. Establishing a daily schedule and sticking to it as closely as possible can help. Visual schedules are particularly effective; they help your twins or triplets understand what to expect throughout the day, and preparing them in advance for any changes can ease transitions and reduce stress.

Communication difficulties can often lead to frustration and aggression. Helping your twins improve their communication skills can make a world of difference. Visual aids like picture exchange communication systems (PECS) or communication apps can be very useful, especially for non-verbal children. Encourage the use of simple words or signs to express needs and emotions, and practice social stories that teach appropriate ways to handle conflicts. The goal is to give your twins the tools to express themselves without resorting to physical actions.

Disagreements will happen, but teaching your twins or triplets how to resolve this peacefully can help prevent further escalation. Role-playing different scenarios can be a fun and effective way to practice this. Reinforce positive behavior with praise and rewards, and teach your twins to use words or signals to express their feelings instead of hitting or pushing. This not only helps in the moment, but also builds skills they’ll use throughout their lives.

One on one time for autistic twins

Twins, triplets or quadruplets can feel overwhelming, you are literally outnumbered! Competing for mom or dad’s attention can lead to fights. Ensuring that each child receives individual attention can help reduce jealousy and aggression. Spend one-on-one time with each child regularly, encourage them to pursue individual interests and hobbies, and celebrate their unique achievements. This can help them feel more secure and less inclined to fight for your attention.

If you’ve tried the above and things still aren’t getting better, you may want to reach out for more help. For example, behavioural therapists can develop personalised intervention plans, and occupational therapists can address sensory needs and develop coping strategies. Additionally, joining support groups like ours can provide invaluable insights and support from those who understand your journey.

Promoting empathy and understanding

Helping your children develop empathy can help stop your autistic twins from hurting each other and promote better relationships. (PS it’s a myth that autistic people are not empathetic!) Encourage them to express their feelings and listen to each other. Use stories or videos that teach empathy and understanding, and always praise them when they show kindness or consideration towards each other. These small steps can encourage a loving bond that will serve them well throughout their lives.

Preventing autistic twins, triplets or quadruplets from hurting each other requires a combination of understanding, environmental changes, skill-building, and sometimes professional support. Each child is unique, so be patient and flexible, trying different strategies until you find what works best for your each child and your family overall. Your efforts will not only help prevent conflicts but also nurture a supportive and loving relationship between your children.

What methods has your family used to stop autistic twins from hurting each other? Share your stories and comments below.

In home therapy appointments for autistic twins

Boy girl twins playing in tent playroom
How to approach in home therapy appointments

Whether your child is diagnosed, or still on the diagnostic pathway for autism, they may have home therapy visits.  For example these might include speech and language, occupational or physical therapy, or other forms of play therapy.  If just one of your twins, triplets or quadruplets is autistic, you may find it difficult to decide how to handle in-home therapy appointments.  

Speak with the therapy provider before they come to your home, if possible. Let them know that your child is a twin, triplet or quadruplet and only one (or some) of the children are receiving therapy.  The therapist might be ok with the other children being in the same room as there are benefits to this, such as seeing how your autistic child interacts with their siblings or even just opportunities for your autistic child to engage in play with others.  

What if the therapist wants to keep them separated?

Some therapists may request that you keep your other children busy elsewhere so they can focus on the task.  They may even have insurance requirements about not having other children present.  If you are in a small home or apartment with limited space, this may prove difficult.  If you have a backyard or even apartment balcony, you may be able to take the children outside, weather permitting. 

If is possible, try find a separate play area for your other children in a different room, away from where your child will be receiving therapy. Make sure the play area is safe and has plenty of toys and activities to keep them engaged independently, such as puzzles, colouring books, or building blocks. This will allow them to stay engaged while your child is receiving therapy.

Do you have any friends or family members who could come by during therapy appointments? This will give your other children a chance to socialize and have fun while your twin is receiving therapy. You might also be able to use technology to keep your other children entertained. Try downloading educational games or movies for them to watch on tablets or other devices.

Finally, you may want to ask the therapist if it would be possible to do the visit in their office instead of at home. The office is probably already set up with play areas for siblings to keep them entertained during appointments.

What has worked for your family? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Toilet training autistic twins

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