Autistic kids who don’t have a routine can be like a ticking time bomb that can explode at any minute. Why do I say this? Because I have seen it first hand and lived it.
Let’s go back to 2006 when our autistic son was 6 years old. It was already a difficult time for him, we had moved to a new apartment, he was starting a new school, I was going back to college, he had a new (amazing I might add) doctor and it was just the two of us.
The mornings were hard and he hated his new school, his new apartment and didn’t like the fact that Mom was going back to college and he had to go to an after-school program. It was hard on us all. It tore me apart seeing him like this.
There were many mornings of tears, him screaming and outright refusing to go.
Something had to change and it had to change soon.
That is when “Routine” came to life in our little apartment. We began a bedtime routine and a morning routine and even a bit of Spiderman was included, and it was the same every day. Things go better, not perfect, but… better.
Every now and again, a monkey wrench would end up in our plans and that ticking time bomb would show its ugly head. So we created a solution for that.
We started the 15 min, 10 min and then 5 min heads up. What is that?
Well, when something had to change, or we had to leave a place that our son adored and felt the world would end, we would tell him Ty, we are leaving in 15 mins ok?
This would give him some time to prepare himself and to warm up to the idea. (pins and needles feeling the first time we used this) We would then let him know again at the 10 min mark and then again at the 5 min mark. This allowed him to still feel in control and gave him some time to adjust.
Over time we used this for a variety of scenarios such as; if we had to change our plans for dinner, movies and other outings. We would also, whenever possible, let him know days in advance by talking to him about it and when possible, showing him pictures or videos.
Make sure they also have a Safe Place (Happy Place). Let me explain:
We made sure that HOME was his SAFE PLACE and he had a safe spot within our home. Rough times at school and other difficulties don’t get better overnight, so your Autistic child (or any child for that matter) needs a place that they feel safe no matter what and that should be HOME.
Whenever our son had a bad day or even a difficult moment at home, he had the safe place he could go to until he felt calm or relaxed, he chose his bedroom. We had squishy balls, pillows, feathers, and other fidget items that he used to calm down with.
Once things were calm we always asked him if he was ready to talk and most times we would approach him in a way that would make him laugh and that would lighten the mood. Each child is different so finding out what makes them feel better will depend on them.
Using positive reinforcement (which I will talk about later in more detail) can help greatly when they are learning to deal with change.
Over time we had to do this less and less and we would even change plans on purpose as he got older to help him deal with scenarios with a variety of coping skills, which I will get into later. When he goes out into the world, we won’t always be there to help him so we wanted to make sure he was prepared as much as possible.
Try using visual schedules with your autistic child, they work really well and can be posted to your child’s door, kitchen cupboards, back of car seats, laminated and turned into a small book they can attach to their backpack or lunch boxes and even the bathroom. Also, making a laminated book he can leave at school to help with his daily routine can help as well.
Here is a link to a site I found with some free printable visual cards from the website: A Day In Our Shoes
“When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.”—Franklin D. Roosevelt