Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder often do very well with structured schedules and routines. They like knowing exactly what to expect and what is going to happen and when.
However, life can be unpredictable, and in some cases, they have to adjust to changes in their daily routine. This can be upsetting and throw them off a little, but there are ways that you can help them to cope better when these changes do arise.
Talk about it
One way we can help our children is by telling them about changes in their schedule ahead of time. If you know they have a doctor’s appointment after lunch, or you’re going out to dinner as a family instead of eating at home, make sure to talk about it and tell them in advance. Discuss what they can expect and answer any questions they may have.
Using a social story can be a great way of explaining change in a visual way. Use pictures and easy terms to talk about what will be happening.
You may also want to practice going to a new place or doing an activity before it happens. This can help to reduce anxiety or stress related to new or different activities.
When transitioning from one activity to another, we know this can be challenging, so, give cues. Let your child know that they have 10 more minutes, 5 more minutes, 1 more minute, and so on.
If time is hard to grasp, use a timer clock that visually displays the amount of time you set is decreasing. Or tell them that they have five more jumps or three more turns until it’s time to switch tasks.
Praise your child when they do well handling change, even if it seems small. Let them know what a great job they did and remind them that they can do it. It is important that you stay calm and upbeat so that they feel more relaxed.
Change can’t always be anticipated, but you can have strategies in place to help deal with it when it does happen. Practicing adjusting to new activities or places can help your child to be more flexible and open to change.
These are also skills they can work on in therapy and at school. Right Start Inc. Provides individualized therapy to meet your child’s needs and goals and to help them overcome challenges in their everyday routines.
Although change can cause anxiety for children on the autism spectrum; visual support, a calm environment, extra time to adjust, and parent support can help children adjust to unexpected change.
All these factors will help prepare your child to be more flexible and tolerant when change does happen.