Are you worried about your child, who has been diagnosed with autism, being out of their normal routine during the holidays? Are you looking for ways to help your child handle routine changes?
Here are some great ways that you can prepare your child on the spectrum for changes during the upcoming holiday season.
- Develop and Stick to a Routine – Your child on the spectrum is used to their regular routine, but just like any other change (such as the start of the school year, the transition into summer vacation etc.) the holiday season calls for its own type of routine in order to set the right expectations and build stability during this very special, but very hectic time of year. Make sure you prepare your child in advance for a shift in their regular schedule.
- Use Visuals –Whether it’s a calendar, a chart, or a picture board, visuals play a very important role in getting your child on the spectrum ready for, and able to, cope with change. Other tools for preparing children diagnosed with autism for a transition to a new schedule include a clock (for children who can tell time), kitchen timer, or wrist watch with a timer. These tools provide visual and auditory transition reminders or countdowns.
- Create an Organized Environment – Help your child on the spectrum successfully follow their routines by creating an organized environment at home. When it is easy for a child to locate what they need, it will be easier for them to follow a set schedule or routine.
- Use Transition Objects – If your child, who has been diagnosed with autism, has a difficult time transitioning from one part of their routine to the next, use an object or a transitional prompt to represent an activity change. For some children on the spectrum a five minute reminder between activities is a good way to prepare their child for a transition. For others, a detailed and visual chart with their daily routine/activities mapped out is what works best. Some children use flashcards with pictures of where they are going, what they will be doing and who they will see to ease the transition to a new location; for others, the security of having a familiar item from home when going to a new environment makes them feel safe
Expected and unexpected routine changes are part of life. Routines provide the structure many children need for moving through the day. We hope that some of these strategies for developing routines, as well as, ideas for helping children cope with schedule changes are useful to you this holiday season.