Establishing Routines For A Child With Autism-And Coping With Changes
While all children benefit from routine in their day to day lives,
children with autism thrive on it! As a parent of a child with autism it is very
important to look at establishing daily routines in your child's life. Routines
will provide predictability and relieve much anxiety and uncertainty about what
is happening around them. A routine will allow your child to have greater
control over their environment.
Provide your child with schedules and timers so
that they can see clearly what is happening and when. An egg timer works well as
a visual cue for children with autism - or alternatively, put markings on the
wall clock to show the times for different parts of the daily routine. Alarm
clocks and oven timers can also be used as part of a routine to remind a child
that it is time to change tasks, get ready for bed, or leave for school.
Establish daily routines as early as possible and stick to them as best you can.
Having said that, change is inevitable in life, and with change comes
disruptions to routines which can be a potential nightmare for a child with
autism. There are many strategies that can be used to help a child with
autism work through day to day change. Picture cards are fabulous and are a
strategy that we use regularly in our home. The picture cards show images and
photos of the many things that we do during the day, places we visit, and tasks
that need to be completed. At the beginning of a day, we select the cards that
represent what will be happening for that day. We stick the cards up on a velcro
strip, and as we move through the day we remove each card and 'post' it in a
'completed' box as we finish with a task or scenario. The benefit of the cards
is that the child is able to see the full day's 'story' and can predict what
will happen next. We also use picture cards for getting ready for kindergarten,
getting ready for dinner, or getting ready for bed - the cards outline the tasks
that need to be completed, one after the other.
Again, the best made plans can go out the window when an unexpected visitor
knocks on the door, or we run out of milk and need to make a quick trip to the
store. We have a '?' or 'what if' card that we use for these times. It is a card
that can be thrown into the mix at any time, and the child understands that this
card can means change. To begin with the '?' card is unpredictable, and a lot of
time and patience is required with its use. However, the '?' card used
consistently when a change arises will eventually give the child a sense of
predictability. The child begins to associate it with change and begins to
realize what sort of things to expect from this and is better able to cope.
Remember that children with Autism love routine. When changes to your child's
routine need to occur, make sure you allow them plenty of time to adjust to the
change, use visual cues when you can, and provide plenty of support to help them
through it. The result will be a more relaxed child and a less stressed parent!