Guest Post by Dr. Brian Kessler
Have you ever wondered how many people have autism worldwide? Around 75 million individuals have autism spectrum disorder (ASD)—that’s about one percent of the global population!
But here’s another problem: The prevalence of autism has increased by a whopping 178% since the year 2000. This means that more and more families have to take good care of their autistic children now and in the future.
If you have a child with autism, you’ll naturally do what it takes to help your kid function as normally as possible. Setting a structured routine is key to ensuring the stability of your autistic child.
Find out why children with autism need structured routines. More importantly, learn how to create one for your child.
Why Autistic Children Need Structured Routines
ASD is a developmental disability that affects a person’s cognitive functions, communication abilities, mobility skills, sensory responses, and social interactions. It consists of five major types, as follows:
- Rett syndrome
- Asperger’s syndrome
- Kanner’s syndrome
- Childhood disintegrative disorder
- Pervasive developmental disorder
The signs and symptoms of autism include delays in learning, speech, and movements. Think of delayed communication, limited social interactions, and restricted and/or repetitive behaviors among children. Likewise, consider those with sensory sensitivities, whether with sounds or visuals.
As such, parents consult specialized doctors and get therapies for their children to help them rise above their disorders. Some even go as far as using medical marijuana for their kids with autism. Others have gotten their child an early diagnosis and provided immediate interventions.
However, one of the best ways to help autistic children cope with their day-to-day challenges is to set structured routines for them. Here’s why:
- To create structure and predictability. Children with autism work better in structured environments. With a routine in place, your kids know what to expect and what to do on a daily basis. From there, you can create independence together!
- To promote ownership and control. Autistic children have a lot of challenges, whether speaking, moving, or socializing with others. A structured routine helps your kids take ownership and control of their situations. You, too, can take control of your children in a positive light!
- To foster comfort and security. Kids with autism have no sense of security but need the utmost comfort. A structured routine will set boundaries for your children. But that will make them feel safe and comfortable!
- To eliminate power struggles and reduce stress. Autistic kids often insist on getting what they want. But parents must learn to take control without causing too much stress on their children. A structured routine can help balance the power struggle between you and your kids as well as eliminate the stressors involved!
- To improve interactions and cooperation. What’s great about structured environments is that you can set proper expectations and control the interactions. With a routine to follow, your autistic children will most likely cooperate with you. Then, you can later help them become more flexible!
- To build a strong connection. As a parent, you want to establish good relationships with your children. But the struggle is real with your autistic kid. With a structured environment and planned routine to follow, you can connect well with your children!
Learn how to create a structured routine for your autistic kids in the section below.
How To Create Structured Routine for Autistic Children
The healthcare needs of people with autism can be complex. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), they require assessment and care, including medical interventions, health promotions, and consistent rehabilitation.
However, various research studies have emphasized the importance of settling daily activities for children with developmental issues, whether at home or school. Therefore, establishing a structured routine for your autistic children is key!
But how do you go about doing that? Follow our practical steps below:
- Set up a schedule for their routine
Autistic children need proper guidance and regular assistance in their day-to-day lives. That’s why establishing a structure on how they’ll go about their regular day would help.
Start by creating a schedule for their daily routines. First, list all the important activities they must do every day, like grooming, eating, studying, and sleeping. Then, include secondary activities reflective of their hobbies and interests, even athletic opportunities they enjoy pursuing.
Finally, set a block of time for irregular activities that you can add from time to time. As time passes, you can include tasks your kids can accomplish to help promote flexibility and adaptability!
- Create visual tools to guide them
While children with autism thrive on structured environments and planned routines, they might struggle at the onset. They need visuals to guide them on how to proceed with their daily activities.
So what better way to do than to use visual tools for your autistic children? Visual tools will tell your kids what to do next and how to accomplish them!
For example, you can create visual aids telling your kids about brushing their teeth, eating with a spoon and fork, and even putting on their pajamas before sleeping. You can go as far as creating videos and photos to show your children exactly how to do things.
- Walk them through with oral communication
Showing your autistic children what to do is one thing; telling them what to do is another. The former is what we recommended earlier; the latter is what we suggest now. And yes, it requires verbal communication!
It’s best to tell your kids exactly what they should do and why it’s vital to do so. Make sure to do this over and over every day so that the activities stick to your children’s minds and that they understand their importance.
For example, tell your children they need to eat on time so that they will grow tall and become healthy. Also, ask them politely to nap in the afternoon and explain the health benefits of napping. Doing so can make a world of difference in how your kids strictly follow the established routine!
- Use positive reinforcements and give rewards
For the most part, showing and telling your children with autism what to do works. However, there’s a better way for them to be more obedient and disciplined. And that is to harness the power of positive reinforcement!
For one, use words of affirmation and give praises after your kids accomplish a particular task. For example, tell your children, “Good job finishing your food on the plate.” You can go as far as handing up inclusive gifts for your kids with special needs if they’ve done something really great at school.
Understand that positive reinforcement helps establish the value of the routines. More importantly, they give your children the confidence and reassurance they need. That way, they will be more familiar with the routine activities and be more sure of themselves!
- Track the progress of their routine
It’s not enough to create a schedule and guide your autistic children in their day-to-day activities. There’s a need to track the progress of their routines. See if they work and help your kids in the long run!
Chances are, your children struggle in some areas or activities. In such cases, you must think of other ways to get your kids to accomplish the crucial tasks.
Likewise, you might discover their lines of interest and fields of expertise. As such, these areas are what you need to focus on for your kids. Remember, your children with autism also learn, grow, and develop, so you must bring out the best in them!
Autistic kids are children with special needs. More than just getting diagnosed and receiving proper interventions, they also need their families’ love, care, and support.
As a parent, you want to ensure your autistic children thrive in an ideal environment, interact well with others, and live a better life amid their disorders. Setting a structured routine for them is key to achieving stability!
That said, consider the five steps for creating a routine for autistic children outlined above. By doing so, you can ensure your kids live the quality of life they deserve!