For most of us, there comes a point in the day when we need to step away from the demands of a job or family. Some people include breaks in their daily routine, while others decide when they need a break and take it. Individuals with autism also need a break from their life’s demands; however, the typical ‘breaks’ others find restful can be stressful and seem like ‘work’ for a child with autism. Recess might feel like “social work” instead of fun. Children with autism also struggle to verbally communicate their internal exhaustion and need for a break. They may use other behaviors to step away from the situation, like running, looking away, refusing to participate, yelling, or dropping to the floor. These behaviors be a way to communicate, ‘I need a break.’ ABA teaches children with autism how to take that break appropriately so they can independently meet their needs.
What is a Break?
Breaks allow the child to take a moment to calm down. It’s important to provide students a moment to collect themselves, do something to distract themselves, or relax so children can return to a stressful situation without further issues. We all need an opportunity to walk away sometimes. A break provides relief so the student can decompress and cope with their struggles. However, a break is not a break to have fun and relax. These lines can get blurred real quick. If breaks are not supervised and set up correctly, students may realize they can request a break to get out of work. This is something you want to prevent!
Teaching Children to Take Breaks
Using a social story to teach children with autism about taking a break is helpful. It can provide information about what to do when feeling overwhelmed or dysregulated. It’s a skill that is often an IEP goal for many young children. Teaching children how to recognize their emotions can take time. It also takes time to teach them self-regulation strategies. Remember to introduce the story when your child is calm, stable, and functioning. It will be easier for them to access the skills when practiced proactively.
You can also use break cards for children who struggle with communication during a challenge. For example, if your child is demonstrating challenging behavior and would benefit from a break, prompt them with a break card and help them to request it however they can. It could be verbally prompting them to ask for a break or simply having the child hand the break card to you.
The Connections Therapy Center
The Connections Therapy Center serves families of children and adolescents with disabilities and special needs. We are a team of experts in behavioral sciences. As a team, we offer intensive hands-on therapy for children and adolescents, as well as informative and useful resources for families. If you are interested in learning more about what we can do to help your family, visit us online or give us a call at (301) 577-4333. Want to get more information on how to help your child thrive? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.