Creating Structure for children with Autism
Uche Godswill Iwuanyanwu
Whether you have a stereotyped pattern of doing things or you practice a flexible and adventurous approach to life, if you have a child with autism, you’ll likely find yourself adapting a structured schedule. Children with autism struggle with sensory stimulation and processing information, which can lead to behavioural issues and frustrations. Even a few tweaks to your schedule can help your child navigate life more successfully.
- Setting Daily Routines: is a good way to have an organized structure for children with autism. Make a visual chart showing the steps your child needs to get through to get ready in the morning. Use a timer if that’s helpful to keep him on task and offer positive encouragement when he gets it right. Say something like “you got dressed in five minutes, wow! Now you have more time to eat breakfast”. The same can apply for bedtime routine too. Turn off all technology at least two hour before bedtime and create a pattern that includes getting in pajamas, brushing of teeth, reading stories or talking quietly.
- Studying at home: setting a timetable which will help the child to transit to the next subject will reduce stress, tantrums and outbursts for the child and he will also be aware of expect next after completing the work. Also, set aside an area for working and homework.
- Extracurricular activities: one of the reasons children with autism have meltdowns is because they feel anxiety. By proving structure, you create a predictable environment and relieve much of the anxiety. Special activities such as play dates, outings, field trips and vacations, while fun for most family members can overwhelm the child. A schedule can help them manage and even enjoy these experiences. Let the child know well in advance of play times and outings. Play should not exceed two hours and monitor them closely. Playtime with one friend usually works best. Before attending field trips, concerts or vacations, visit the destinations if possible, otherwise have your child do some research online to prepare. Taking your visual schedule along on vacation and maintaining the daily routing from home will help in trying to keep things as normal as possible and provides some sense of stability.
- Chores: completing chores is a meaningful and worthwhile part of participating in family life and children with autism shouldn’t be exempted. On the other hand, surprising your child with a laundry list of assignments will likely cause friction. Assign your child two to three tasks each day and use a chore chart as a reward system to encourage accountability. Good chores for children with autism are those that have predictable sequential steps such as unloading a box or filing papers. Jobs that are open ended or require lots of abstract planning are more difficult. In some cases, it helps to draw pictures of the steps involved in a task.
Having a form of structure is vital in maintaining discipline and modifying behavior for the better and makes life a lot easier for both parent and child.