Establishing practical workable routines for children with special needs
Rose Akinsehinwa May 2018
It is a known and established fact that children with special needs thrive with predictability and routines. This is their way of feeling secure and less anxious about new situations. Throwing a special needs child into an unknown situation can bring about feelings of insecurity and anxiety which may usually result in challenging behaviours. Establishing a routine can be easy for parents and teachers
- Planning: Parents and Teachers who plan all the predictable details of their children’s day are most likely to succeed in establishing a routine. Children will respond better where there is order and things are well-organized and structured. Make a daily schedule from wake-up time to bed time at home and from walking into the school gate until school closes for the day. Come up with procedures on following the routines to make it easily adaptable. Procedures can change from time to time for efficiency. In schools, Teachers might need to come up with a plan for a full term calendar. Always remember that consistency will drive home the point better and help in achieving the objective.
- Set goals and timelines: Having the “timetable or plan” is not enough. You need to set goals on the plan to ensure that not only your child follows through but yourself as well. This is called discipline and it is only by discipline that effective structure and routines can be established.
- Establish rules: It’s important to establish rules at the beginning of the exercise. Rules are important in keeping children on track and holding them accountable. Like in all democratic settings, you and the child/children should be involved in setting the rules with the penalties for breaking them and rewards for keeping them. Print out the rules and keep them visibly like you would the planned schedule. Always ensure to follow through or else you will lose trust and control which will defeat your purpose.
- Be Flexible: Establishing a routine is for convenience sake. However, life can happen like: running out to pick an item from the store, sickness or having a car breakdown. You might also want to inject some fun and spontaneity so that your life is not boring or like a factory line. On times like that inform your child before time of any changes to the routine and back it up with the why. By informing your special needs child in advance about changes in activity, timing or schedule, they are less likely to exhibit anxiety or challenging behaviours. This will also begin to prepare them for the real world and create some form of flexibility of thought.
The importance of routine and structure for children with special needs cannot be overemphasized and therefore, taking time out to establish them will make your home life or classroom work efficiently like a well-oiled machine.