Remaining Focused During Unexpected Schedule Changes
With school, parks, playgrounds and extra curricular activities all closed down, we have all been managing our children’s emotional and mental health right now.
These temporary schedule changes can make it difficult for your child with autism to stay focused on school work, especially since there is no separation between school and home these days. In moments such as this, parents will need to remind their children of the rules that go along with times of transition.
Here are some tips on how you can create some normalcy during these unprecedented times.
Try to stay consistent – Your child with autism depends on a consistent schedule. If you are able to mimic their regular classroom schedule at home you will be able to minimize both their stress and anxiety. We recommend creating a visual schedule, which will help your child transition to this new way life and of learning while schools and other programs are closed.
Fund pictures of activities, assignments, and chores that your child will need to complete or make a checklist and put it up where they can reach it so that they can mark off each item they accomplish. If/then schedules also work well as a positive reinforcement so that you and your child can alternate between one activity they need to do and one activity they want to do.
Here are a couple of examples of visual schedules:
Develop Strategies for Using Energy –Schedule changes and being stuck at home can make a child antsy and itching to get out. Providing opportunities to exhaust physical energy with stress balls, trampolines, or walks will help your child with autism stay focused when its time to learn. Don’t forget to add these physical activities to your child’s visual schedule every hour or as needed.
Some other recommend physical activities include:
- Freeze Dance
- Wall Push-Ups
- Bouncing on a yoga ball
But, if there are other physical activities that your child loves to do, feel free to incorporate those. The more they enjoy an activity the more excited they will be to participate in it.
No new routine comes without there own challenges so it’s important to make sure you are constantly reinforcing your child in a positive way. These changes are not easy for any of us, but can be especially difficult for a child on the spectrum.
Educate through events– Even though no one is going on trips right now, a time will come when life will go back to normal, so now is a good time to work with your child on the spectrum on proper behavior and expectations by using imaginary vacations and events as examples. Plus, it’s always nice to plan a make-believe trip when you are stuck at home for days in end.
By discussing an event or a trip through drawings, visuals, stories, role playing etc, you are able to create scenarios your child and your family with experience when you all step away from your normal routines. This will allow your child to envision some examples of what they may see, smell or hear.
One fun activity to try:
Plan a trip to France
- Print and cut our pictures of French beret and glue them on popsicle sticks and pretend to wear them as hats as you take a walk around your neighborhood.
- Teach your child to make French Toast, or French fries, or if you are feeling adventurous crepes.
- Have a dance party to French music
If France is not a destination of choice for you, find a destination that you and your family would love to explore and find ways to bring the experience to life for your child on the spectrum.