Using Schedules to help your Child on the Spectrum
Children thrive on routine and building up of schedules and this is especially true in the case of children on the spectrum. Children diagnosed with Autism learn best from repetition and predictability. Thus having a schedule can greatly help relieve your autistic child’s stress and can add a sense of organisation to their life. They will know what to expect on a regular basis and how to go about their day from one point to the next.
Some families like the idea of having structured homes with lots of predictability, while other families succeed with a more flexible lifestyle. Regardless, certain activities like mealtimes and bedtimes occur daily, so most families find creating patterns around these activities helpful.
But if you lack a proper schedule, it gets hectic and overwhelming not only for the child but for the entire household. A child on the spectrum has a lot of doctor and therapist appointments to get to, sometimes even more than one in a day. Thus having a schedule will help both the parent and the child navigate their way through these meetings and appointments.
Having specified the importance of a schedule in your kid’s life, we must not forget that all children on the spectrum differ from each other, thus their schedule should be catered according to their needs. For example, some Autistic children have trouble reading, and for such children a written schedule will do no good. Thus you can instead use a visual schedule in which pictures represent their daily activities. This will help prevent breakdowns and will reduce their anxiety induced stress.
When conducting daily activities with your child it is important to remember to place the schedule in a place where your child can see it. By doing so your child will know that he cannot proceed onto the next activity scheduled for him/her until they have completed their current activity. This is a very good way to get your children to do all their chores and learning exercises.
Although we know that Autistic children are creatures of habit and even a little change in their day to day life can throw them off-guard, unfortunately there are things that will always come up that can hinder your child’s daily routine. When such an event occurs, as daunting as it may seem, try explaining to your kid why there is a discrepancy in your child’s schedule and try to return to the regular schedule as fast as you can. For example, if you are on a trip and your child is used to getting up at seven a.m., continue to do so. Keep their bedtimes close to the same time each night. Your Autistic child will be happier when they have had enough sleep.
Schedules will make life much easier you and your Autistic child. Keep them posted for your child to see, and stick to the schedule the best you can. An example of a schedule you can use if found below.
7 AM - Wake up, get dressed and get ready for the day
8 AM- Breakfast
9 AM -Therapy Appointment at home
11 AM- Free time/ Play time
12 PM - Lunch
1 PM - Outdoor Play
2 PM - Arts and Crafts
3 PM - Free Time
5 PM - Dinner
6 PM - TV time
7 PM - Bath time
8 PM - Bed Time
Maintaining a schedule like this can help you greatly, you can cater it to your requirements. For example it can be adjusted according to school time, homework, extra-curricular activities, chores, etc. Once you start using a chart for your child you will see an improvement in the flow of your day. This also leaves little time for boredom. There is always something planned to do.
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