• LaKeshia Y. Wells, M.Psych, BCBA, LBA

How Routines Can Help Children with Autism: Things You Should Know



When your child has autism, it can be hard to know what to do or how to help. That’s where routines come in. Routines are a way of showing your child that certain things happen regularly, so he knows what will happen next. These small habits can create positive expectations that will in turn positively influence your child. By creating a regular schedule that your child understands and can anticipate, you’re helping him or her feel more in control. Routines also provide a sense of confidence and security that goes beyond anything you or I could explain in words. Here are three things you should know about routines if you or someone you know is raising a child with autism.


Routines Foster a Sense of Ownership Over Their Day

When you introduce routines into your child’s day, you’re giving them the chance to take control of their lives in whatever way they can. Whether it’s regulating their time and/or effort spent on a certain activity or simply knowing what comes next in each day, routines can help your child feel like they’re in charge of their own lives. Having a certain control over their lives can also help your child feel like they’re an active participant in their own lives, rather than a bystander. Your son or daughter will feel more like an important part of her world and less like an outsider. They can see that they have a hand in the decisions that are made and the actions that result from those decisions.


Routines Help Relieve Anxiety, Boost Confidence, and Help Teach New Skills

Having control over decisions can also go a long way in helping a child with autism feel less anxious and more confident while they navigate their daily lives. Feeling like they know what’s coming next and when it’s coming can be a great way to help your child with autism stay calm in the face of change and pressure. In many ways, routines are a lot like a roadmap for your child. They know what they’re expected to do, they know what they’re capable of doing, and they’re confident in their ability to get things done. This sense of confidence can be a huge advantage in social situations and even school life.


Routines are also great in teaching new skills to boost independence. For example, if your child is expected to brush their teeth after every meal, you can use this as an opportunity to also teach them how to brush their tongue. This is also a great way to help your child learn important oral hygiene techniques!


Implementing a Routine Takes Time and Consistency

Routines take time, patience, and practice to get better at any skill. If you try to rush your child’s routine change or try to keep up with him or her, you’ll end up overwhelmed and frustrated. Instead, work on changing your own schedule so your child doesn’t have as many unexpected demands, and you’ll have fewer demands on each other on a daily basis. When your child starts to have routine demands, take a step back so you don’t feel so overwhelmed. Try to stay calm and focused on what your child is doing. When you’re able to see the small steps, your child is making, you can feel more empowered to help him or her.


Remember

Routines can provide so many benefits to your child by simply adhering to a pattern of action in their everyday life. They can help your child feel in control of their day, confident in their skills, and comfortable in their own skin. Start small and try to incorporate a new routine every week or every month. With time and patience, your child will benefit from a routine and feel more like themselves.

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