Specific Parenting Techniques for Children and Teens with ASD Level 1

"Black and White Thinking" in the Autistic Child: Tips for Parents


Black and white thinking is a common trait observed in many autistic children. It is a type of thinking that involves seeing things in absolutes, with no room for nuances or variations. For instance, they may view a situation as being either entirely right or entirely wrong, with no middle ground. 

This type of thinking can make it challenging for autistic children to navigate social situations effectively. They may struggle with social cues and find it hard to engage in appropriate social behaviors. This can lead to misunderstandings with peers or authority figures, resulting in low self-esteem and a sense of isolation.

Examples of black and white thinking:

  • All or nothing: The child believes that if a goal or task cannot be completed entirely or perfectly, it is not worth pursuing at all.
  • Always or never: The child assumes that someone will always - or never - do something based on a single instance or limited experience.
  • Beautiful or ugly: The child labels something as either completely beautiful or completely ugly.
  • Good or bad people: The child labels someone as entirely good or bad based on one action or characteristic.
  • Right or wrong: The child asserts that there is only one correct answer or approach to a situation or problem.
  • Success or failure: The child believes that anything less than perfect is a failure.

To help children with black and white thinking, it's crucial to provide them with clear and consistent rules and expectations. Having a structure and routine can help them understand what is expected of them in different situations, reducing their anxiety and promoting a sense of stability. 

It is also essential to provide them with opportunities to practice social skills in a safe and supportive environment. This can be achieved through social skills training or therapy, where they learn how to read social situations, understand the perspectives of others, and respond appropriately.

In addition to these strategies, therapy and other interventions can also be effective in helping children with black and white thinking. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective forms of therapy for autistic children. It helps them develop more flexible thinking patterns, learn to weigh competing priorities, and consider multiple perspectives. CBT can also help them learn to regulate their emotions, which can be challenging for autistic children.

In conclusion, black and white thinking can be a challenging trait for autistic children, but with the right strategies and support, they can learn to navigate social situations more effectively. By providing them with clear and consistent rules, opportunities to practice social skills, and therapy, we can help them develop flexible thinking patterns and lead fulfilling lives.


Resources for parents of children and teens on the autism spectrum:



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