Changes in routines with an Au-some child can be difficult for both the parent and child.
Most kids on the Autism spectrum have even more difficulties dealing with changes in a routine compared to typically developing children. It can be a daily routine or even a season routine (Spring into Summer). When change occurs and abruptly disrupts their regular patterns, the result may be a total breakdown. Some of my most difficult times with Zachary, my 10 year old Au-some son has been around changes in his routines. Some expected and most totally unexpected. Sometimes as our kids breakdown we breakdown also.
Here are 3 ways to help to deal with routine changes with an Au-some child.
1. Use reminders. Visual and verbal reminders so that they know ahead of time a change in routine is coming up. Some parents recommend using a physical sign with pictures that shows activities for the day and time. Even if they don’t know how to tell time, it helps. It will show what is happening now and what comes next. This helps the child become less anxious and helps both parent and child know the routine or schedule for the day. Repetition, consistency and practice helps with this.
2. Predict the possible responses. Plan and prepare accordingly. Knowing the possibilities of breakdowns ahead of time, so that you as a parent can be 3 steps ahead of them when possible. Have choices that are available to offer to them ahead of time. It’s okay to predict and know ahead of time that the possibility of breakdown may occur, within reason, of course. Once your child is safe and it’s not self injurious to themselves or others.
Also Related: 10 Lessons Learned from my Au-Some child
3. Explain and be understanding. As the change is occurring, be understanding that it’s “throwing them” off of what they were doing before. Some kids on the spectrum can become very absorbed or “into” certain activities (especially ones they really enjoy). This makes it difficult to understand why they have to stop to move on to something or some place different. Listen to what they are saying, or showing (especially if not verbal). Talk to them throughout the process in simple and brief sentences. Explain to them that you understand how they feel in a calm and brief manner. Our kids connect more and their increasing in understanding occurs over time, when we speak to them “briefly” about the reason for the change occurring.
One of my biggest lessons as a mom to an Au-some son was to stop trying to fix and recreate him and to start learning to understand and connect more with what he is feeling, especially during difficult times for him, like routine changes. Its not always a smooth process and we still have our days where meltdowns may occur, but they are definitely lessened over time and consistency.
What’s are some of your experiences dealing with routine changes with your Au-some or Awesome child? What strategies work or do not work with your child?