Children with autism thrive on routine, especially at home and in recurring activities. Developing a daily schedule for your child is a great comfort and a learning mechanism to provide the best opportunity for consistent development. It’s not always easy to decide which activities, chores, and exercises should make up your child’s routine. The schedule needs to be specific to your family, child, and environment to be successful. Keep reading for some tips on creating a routine for your child to help them thrive.
Assess the Structure of a Typical Day
Part of developing a routine is analyzing how your family generally uses their time. It is easier to start with the most frequently occurring and time-consuming activities in your daily schedule and use them as foundations for more varied tasks. What time does your child wake up and go to sleep? If morning or nighttime transitions are difficult, try addressing these areas specifically. You should also consider meal times, school, and playtime. These should give you a solid baseline for establishing a unique routine.
Create a Visual Schedule
Using calendars or schedules with pictures to visually communicate upcoming events makes transitions easier for children and helps them develop greater independence. By having an icon that signifies change, such as a car, your child can expect when it’s time to get in the car and may feel less anxious. Teaching your child to expect changes several days in advance helps them prepare before the shift occurs. Scheduling some extra time in between transitions also aids your child in coping with stress during the new routine.
Use Alerts and Timers
Creating a daily routine is one thing; sticking to it is another. So, it is essential to stay on schedule with timers, no matter how busy things get. It is a good idea to use multiple reminders, such as a master calendar that is visible at all times, phone alarms, and visual timers work well. You can even create fun alerts with animal sounds or include cartoon characters your child is interested in to engage them in an upcoming activity.
Reward and Reinforce
It is an outstanding achievement when your child can follow through with a new routine or deal with unexpected changes. It is easier to deal with fear and anxiety when we know we will receive approval and validation for overcoming our emotions. If verbal praise is not enough, you can give your child a small tangible reward to show that you are proud and to reinforce the behavior.
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 the fields of pediatric speech, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, and 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, Google+, and Pinterest.