Everyone has routines for their daily life, and those on the autism spectrum significantly benefit from structured patterns. The coronavirus pandemic has brought an unexpected break from our regular routines, which none of us could be fully prepared for. Now more than ever, children need structure in their daily lives. Establishing a regular routine can help your child increase independence and provide consistency during the day. Here are some tips for giving your child more structure throughout the day.
Use Visual Aids
Using a visual schedule can help provide structure throughout the day so that your child knows what activities they will do during the day. Visual aids can help children on the autism spectrum keep to their schedule by physically reinforcing the routine you both have established. For example, try to use real photos of activities, such as pictures of the meals they will eat or the people they will see, so that your child will learn how to use the visual schedule quickly.
Once you have developed a schedule for your child, it is important that you stick to that routine as closely as possible. Children with autism thrive in structured environments where they know exactly what will happen next. For instance, if their schedule says that breakfast is at 9:30, then they need to eat at that time every day. If your child already has an established school schedule, try to follow that routine to reduce any uncertainty.
Reinforcement is Key
Remember, reinforcement is the most vital tool to strengthen behavior. If your child uses the visual schedule throughout the day, give positive reinforcement to motivate them and increase the chance that they will keep using the visual schedule in the future. A structured routine will help foster independence and assist with transitions while your child is at home.
It takes time to establish a routine, especially with all of the uncertainty we have been through this past year. Be consistent and patient with your child while creating new routines, and reinforce the behavior when your child completes an activity.
Use Prompts for Transitions
Prompting your kids when switching activities can help relieve the stress of change. A ten-minute warning before moving on to the next thing can help your child adjust more smoothly to changes in their daily routine. For example, if you need to leave the house soon, give your child a twenty-minute warning before you get ready to go.
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.