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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    How can I explain to my Autistic son that swearing is wrong?

    My son is 7 and swears from the time he gets up until he is asleep. Only to family, mainly me and only occasionally at school, but no amount of punishment will deter him. It's embarrassing to me as he has heard the words used by other people and knows that we don't like it. I've tried ignoring him but it's becoming such a habit that I'm concerned he will outcast himself from his peers soon.
  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • 1


    I have been working in Eltham, Melbourne as a relationship and family counsellor for over twelve years. I draw on current theory and research about … View Profile

    This sounds like a very stressful situation for you as a parent!

    Is your son currently receiving support and treatment through specialists? Professionals trained in working with children with autism may assist you to develop a personalized treatment plan for your child, which will think about all of his developmental needs. The best way to access this support is through your child's school, pediatrician or GP.

    The following are some general behavioural tips you may want to try.

    As well as ignoring your son when he is swearing, you may find it useful to notice and reward times when he uses language that is appropriate. Give specific positive feedback rather than praising him. 

    Actively redirect his attention where possible rather than getting caught in direct confrontation.

    Try to work out what your son is trying to achieve by swearing. Is he wanting attention from you? Make sure you give him attention when he is behaving well, not only when he is needing to be disciplined.

    Work on managing your own understandable responses to his swearing - it's important to remain calm and non-reactive. To do this, you may need to find more support for yourself. Parenting a child with autism is a demanding job! Help is available through Autism Australia, who run information and support groups for parents. 

    The National Carer Counselling Program, run through Carer Associations in each state, provide up to six free counselling sessions for parents of children with a disability, with a counsellor close to where you live. For more information see

     Respite care may also be important, so you can get a regular break to rest and recharge your batteries. This would be available through your local Carer Respite Centre, .

  • 2


    Daniel Wendt


    Mr Daniel Wendt is the Principal Clinical Psychologist and Director of Oracle Psychology. Daniel is a Child and Adolescent Psychologist registered with the Psychology Board … View Profile

    It can be helpful to provide children with ASD with feedback on the emotional impact of their actions. E.g. "It makes mummy sad when you say that". This should be explained in an empathic and instructional way. The idea is not to make the child feel guilty but to inform them of what is inappropriate. Using visuals and social stories can assist with the message sinking in  

    Another idea deal would be to use an incentive system. E.g. Each day your son goes without swearing he gets a tick. When he gets 5 ticks he gets an identified reward. Try and place the emphasis on what to do (e.g. Use nice words and manners to make people feel happy) rather than what not to do.

    Finally, it can be helpful to seek professional help from a qualified and experienced Child Psychologist. Developing a professional relationship with a Child Psychologist early in life on can be important for current and future concerns in children with ASD.

    I hope this was helpful.


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