Inside: It is normal to feel scared and anxious during times of change. Find out an easy way to help create a routine for individuals with autism and your family.
Right now as I write this post, there are a lot of changes going on in the world with a global Pandemic.
This might mean that your child’s school is closed, daycare is closed, you are home from work, or you are trying to work from home.
There are a lot of changes going on and that can be scary and uncertain.
What does this mean for Children and Teenagers with Autism?
Change may be extra hard for them to process and understand right now. Some individuals with autism really thrive on routines and when that routine is changed it can have a big impact on their everyday life.
I want to remind you to take time to show compassion, empathy, and understanding towards your kids right now as they are experiencing a lot of change in their daily routines as well as yours.
What can we do to help them through these changes?
Build a Routine Together
First, we need to figure out what type of routine will work for your family. Think about what type of structure works well for your child or children, but also keep in mind what works for you as the parent caring for your children.
This can seem overwhelming at first, but I am going to do my best to help make this transition a little easier for you.
Think about how you may want your day to flow together instead of thinking of it in time chunks. Are there parts to your day that you know need to get done such as eating times, sleeping times, getting ready for the day, or specific activities you would like to do with them?
List out the big activities that need to get done in the day.
Then from your list do you feel like it needs to stay in a specific order for your child to really thrive from a specific routine, or are they okay with flexibility and changing things if they need to?
I don’t want to give you a specific schedule/routine to follow because every family is different in what works for them.
For example, I do not like to have things scheduled out for me because I get upset if it doesn’t go as planned. Instead, I like to think about 2 or 3 things I know I would like to get done that day and work that into my schedule as a flow to my day.
Here are some examples of activities of how you can set a flow to your day without giving time constraints to the activities.
Flow to a day:
Work Time (Reading, writing, math)
Free Play/Technology time
Outside Time if able or want to
Quit Time or Rest or (reading or writing)
Life Skills Opportunities (help with meal prep, work on a specific skill the child would like to get better at)
Screen Time/Technology Time
Get Ready for Bed
These are just examples of activities, you do NOT need to feel like you need to do EVERYTHING in a day.
Right now your children need you to be there for them and to feel loved. They need time to connect with you, play, eat, and sleep.
How do you build a routine together with your children?
One thing you can do is ask them what is something they would like to do today? Is there a specific game they would like to play, movie to watch, or skill they are wanting to learn?
Building a routine with your child may hopefully help them feel excited to do something they want to do and help with these new changes.
Because I don’t know about you, but I don’t like being told what I have to do all of the time. I like to have a say in what I want to do during the day and your children will most likely feel the same way.
Also, think about the times during the day when your child is in their best mood. Do they do better in the mornings, afternoons, or evenings? Take that time to find a way to really connect with your child. Try doing something fun whether it be playing a game together or a certain play activity that they enjoy.
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Another way to help with the transition and changes to a new routine can be by using visual schedules.
Visual Schedules can be actual pictures of the activities, a real-life object from the activity, or a written checklist of the order of events.
A visual schedule may be helpful to use when changing your routine so they have a better understanding of what may be expected of them. Especially if they were used to using a visual schedule at school. You may want to reach out to their teacher if you are able to see if they were using a visual schedule and see if they could help you create one for at home to make it similar to what they had at school.
Additional Free Visual Schedule Examples
Help them Meet their Sensory Needs
Some individuals with autism may need more help with getting their sensory needs met during the day, especially during times of change.
If you are able to check-in with their teacher or if they were receiving occupational therapy services, see if you can ask them what types of sensory activities they were doing with them and what worked well for your child.
Here are some additional resources to help you come up with different sensory activities ideas that you could do at home.
Making Sure your Needs are Met During the Day
Lastly, I want to make sure we think about how to help you meet your needs throughout the day as a parent.
Your daily routine and schedule has most likely changed as well and this may mean that you are feeling very overwhelmed, frustrated, scared, and anxious.
It is okay to have these feelings, I know I have been feeling this way.
We need to try to stay calm in front of our children during these times of unknowns to help them feel a little comfort during their day.
One strategy that has been helping me during this time is to think about what I have control over in my life.
- I have control over how much I use social media or what I want to read on social media.
- I have control over what activities and things I can do with my children during the day.
- I have control over how I will react in certain situations.
Think about what you have control over in your life right now and try your best to focus on positives and gratitude right now.
Also, think about what things do you need during the day to help you feel calm and like yourself?
Do you need time to watch a show, read a book, take a bath, 5 minutes to yourself to collect your thoughts?
I know it can feel impossible to make time during the day for yourself, but as the parent, you are such a huge part of your child’s life right now and they need you to be there for them. You can’t be there for your child or children when you are so overwhelmed and tired.
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