Pranking Autistic Pre-schoolers and Other Ill-Advised Pursuits

Bronwyn, my 5 year-old, has discovered YouTube.  For the most part, this is a good thing.  She watches kids’ music videos, children’s stories, and monster makeup tutorials made by other kids.  She enjoys these “tatorials” so much that I can hear her “filming” her own videos, speaking directly to her audience as she discusses how to do such things as washing one’s own hair, counting to 100 by 5’s, and so forth.  It’s cute, but I fear she is going to ask me for her own channel soon.  No, she won’t be getting one.

Recently, she asked if she could watch some little girl “pranking” her family members.  The pranks were innocent enough, so I allowed it.  Big mistake.  Now she is stalking our home, lying in wait for some way to prank us all.  (You should have seen her delight when her daddy discovered the salt in his morning cup of coffee.)  Really, it’s been kind of cute watching her tap into her imagination, although we did have to have a discussion about funny vs. mean pranks. 

You probably have guessed where this is going.  Yes, my little stinker wants Callum to join in the fun.  So I explained to her that her little brother probably wasn’t going to appreciate being pranked and that we should all refrain from doing so.  Being a little Choleric, she of course ignored my advice and set about pranking Callum.  It didn’t go well.  He thought it was funny when she jumped out at him from behind a door, but that’s where the hilarity ended.  Hiding his candy, letting the water out of his bathtub, and touching ice to the back of his neck were all spectacular disappointments as well.  (Which earned her repeated trips to time out in her room.)  So I’m going to go out on a limb here and state emphatically that playing practical jokes on autistic preschoolers is ill-advised.  Somebody alert the media. 

I must say that I was impressed with Callum’s handling of it all.  He may not have much language, but he has communication.  And, boy, did he communicate.  He yelled, growled his displeasure, and – understandably for any long-suffering little brother – gave her a little shove.  A clear case of self-defense, so he escaped prosecution. 

True Story – “How a Hog Pen Saved Me from Death”

As for my daughter’s love of practical jokes, I blame my husband.  She inherited it from him – along with his nose, a suspected case of ADHD, and a decidedly grumpy morning demeanor.  (It has been suggested to me by her teachers that I have her tested for gifted.   Let’s just attribute her staggering intellect to me, shall we?)  I’m more like Callum.  I don’t like surprises.  I have sensory issues.  And don’t even think about messing with my food.  Nope, I don’t like being on the receiving end of a practical joke at all, though I confess to having orchestrated a few really good ones.  (The best one nearly got me killed.)

But you know what I love?  The fact that my daughter loves her little brother so much that she constantly tries to find ways to entertain him.  Her solutions – at 5 years-old – leave much to be desired.  But her little spirit is willing, and – for the most part – so is his. 

How I look forward to seeing the trouble these little monsters get into together.  J


Siblings are the people we practice on, the people who teach us about fairness and cooperation and kindness and caring, quite often the hard way.

– Pamela Dugdale




10 thoughts on “Pranking Autistic Pre-schoolers and Other Ill-Advised Pursuits

  1. Narelle

    my 5 yr old girl Chloe is always trying to find ways to get her 3 yr old brother Mathew who is autistic to join in with her. Tonight she put lots of her things on the floor that she thought he would like then yelled out time to eat dinner so he would come out and hopefully play with her while she was holding a flashing mickey mouse toy that he likes. Hmm wasn’t successful at all but she keeps on trying!

  2. fotodad

    This is great. A few things I’ve noticed about my 16 year old NT daughter and my 13 year old autistic son:

    1. They may fight, but they have each others’ back when it counts.
    2. Kids with autism can learn about sarcasm, contrary to popular belief.
    3. My autistic son loves to jump out and try to scare me. Problem is he’s done it so much now that I’m usually expecting it. Either that or he’s too noisy about sneaking up on me, so I already know he’s there.

  3. Leah Kelley

    Such fun! I love this post… and it totally triggered a memory – which I am going to share because it might be of use.

    When H, now 14, was little we used to use ‘pranks’ to support his development of joint attention, co-regulation, and emotion sharing, and flexible thinking. We would strategize and plan and sneak up together to surprise Daddy – or leave a fake bug or whoopee cushion for someone to encounter. The opportunity for joint attention and the reading of non verbal cues was so great as we were laying in wait (trying to be quiet – giggling and sushing each other) to see the other person’s reaction. What H didn’t know was that we had it set up so that the person knew they were being pranked. They made a huge funny reaction – and we would all enjoy this together.

    I can’t help but wonder, if your daughter is so interested in including her little brother, perhaps she could be guided to include him in a fun way that supports his development and is fun for both of them. Perhaps it is an opportunity for them and they could team up… with some assistance from you…


    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      Thanks, Leah. I’m wondering the same thing and thinking that she is going to be a big help to us. They have recently begun to play chase — or at least Callum’s version of it. He pushes Bronwyn to get back while he runs and then laughs maniacally waiting for her to come and chase him. And he likes to dance with her. Good things are definitely happening in their relationship. :)

    2. fotodad

      D. loves pulling pranks. He hates spiders, just as much as his mom does. But one day someone brought home a very real looking “hex bug” spider. Once he realized it was a hex bug, he switched it on, yelled “Mom, spider!!” and tossed it on her desk. She was freakin’ out, until she realized what he’d done. We all got a good laugh. Even his mom.


    hehe! both my children are autistic and on the severe end of the spectrum but i do have a youtube story!

    wwe allowed our lad to cruise youtube, he went from pixar car videos to monster jam, all harmless stuff…until he landed on an “epic fail” video entitled “fright night” where a man dressed as jason jumped out on people…! we could hear him chuckling, then gigling, then belly laughing and then words started to come which as hes non verbal really was a bit of a shock! we realised he was copying the people off the video though when we got closer and could here him mimicing “oh f@cking hell” in a shocked voice!! damage was already done but needless to say our browser history was well and truly cleared!

  5. Sandy Tilton

    This is a fun post and I can see Bronwyn putting salt in her Dad’s coffee. April Fool’s was an interesting day at your home. I also enjoyed reading the story about the prank you pulled in your teens. I had heard you tell it before but the visual of you lying face down in hog slops doesn’t get old.

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