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Here’s Why an Autism Routine is Important

December 21, 2023

An autism routine can make a significant impact on the everyday life and overall well-being of children on the spectrum. Creating and establishing routines can provide structure and a genuine sense of stability with the knowledge of what will happen next.

There are daily activities that can be upsetting when unexpected changes occur. To help autistic children learn to cope and work through these potentially stressful events, parents and caregivers can incorporate skills into the daily routine and schedule of the day.

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The Significance of Structure and Schedule In an Autistic Child’s Life

There are children with autism who experience different stress levels and react individually to those stressors. If parents and caregivers can help these children develop skills that lead to resilience, it can be beneficial for those children.

Knowing when to expect certain activities at a particular time during the day can help curb stressful feelings, creating space for calm and certainty.

A daily schedule could consist of:

  • Morning routine: this could include a wake-up time, getting clothes ready and getting dressed, brushing hair, brushing teeth, eating breakfast, grabbing a backpack, heading to the car for school
  • After school routine: take off shoes, remove homework or papers parents need to sign, complete homework, dinner, family time
  • Bedtime routine: bath/shower, brush teeth, bedtime story, turn lights off

There are different ways to share a schedule with an autistic child, such as social stories and other visual supports like a visual schedule.

The best schedule is based on the child’s current interests and what kinds of activities need to be included.

The Benefits of Creating an Autism Routine

Another benefit of an autism routine is that it can create a special family time and bond when the rituals are built around the family unit. This also allows for quality social interactions among family members and friends.

These interactions can deepen bonds, create opportunities to support and build social skills, and enhance social-emotional development.

Parents can create different visual supports that can be helpful and easier for the child to understand. When creating any interactive materials, we must pay attention to:

  • the child’s interests
  • potential sensory sensitivities
  • usual daily activities
  • the flow of the daily schedule
Little girl holding a clock

Some of the benefits of creating an autism-friendly routine  include:

  • the reduction of stress and anxiety
  • lower occurrence of meltdowns or tantrums
  • the child’s ability to self-regulate and understand what they are feeling
  • a greater sense of independence and increased self-esteem
  • improved social skills, building new skills, and using existing skills in different social interactions

Daily Routines Families Can Create To Make the Day Run Smoother

Creating and maintaining a consistent autism routine helps children on the spectrum have a sense of structure and predictability throughout their day. Behaviors and confidence can improve over time as a child develops more independence because of the daily predictability.

When parents decide to change and establish a new routine, they can slowly introduce the changes to the child in steps.

Along with slowly introducing the new schedule, parents can include their child in creating their new routine, which helps to promote independence and a sense of self-confidence.

Also, when creating a routine, parents can combine preferred activities with ones the child dislikes.  For example, after brushing their teeth and hair, the child can go outside and play before the next task.

That can be a positive reinforcement and motivator for the child to complete what they may not want, asking for a more successful routine.


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Families find there are fewer power struggles over less appealing tasks when a successful routine is set in place. Also, the schedule helps reduce stress levels for the child and family members.

A visual schedule can help the child who is a visual learner better understand what to expect next. Also, a timer helps to establish when time periods start and end. Some timers aren’t as loud and surprising for children with autism.

Maintaining an Autism Routine

Most families can successfully maintain daily schedules that help with transitions throughout the day for their children diagnosed with autism. Making an autism routine and having the child be a part of creating the schedule can help them understand it and prevent potential power struggles that can occur otherwise.

Visual aids and schedules, timers, and verbal reminders can all help the autistic child stay on task and on schedule. Those tools can also help make transitions and schedules less stressful, with a higher chance of success and the child enjoying the process.

When a child with autism has a daily routine, it helps them develop independence and improves their self-esteem. As the skills are built, the child’s overall well-being improves.

FAQs

Q: What are healthy habits for autism?

A: Healthy habits for autism include maintaining a consistent routine, promoting a balanced diet, and incorporating regular physical activity to support overall well-being. Additionally, fostering effective communication and providing sensory-friendly environments are essential for individuals with autism to thrive.

Q: How can a change in routine affect a child with autism?

A: A change in routine can cause stress, anxiety, or discomfort in children with autism. Individuals on the spectrum often thrive on predictability, and alterations to their routines can impact their ability to cope and regulate emotions.

Q: Why is routine important for autism?

A: Routine is crucial for individuals with autism as it provides predictability and a structured environment, which can reduce anxiety and support emotional regulation.

Q: How to help a child with autism deal with a change in routine?

A: To help individuals with autism cope with changes in routine, explain the change in advance and use visual schedules to prepare them. Gradually introduce modifications and maintain clear communication to make the process less stressful.

References

Berry, L., Klinepeter, E., Kochel, R., Racine, M., & Reece, J. (2023). Q & A: Maintaining a routine for your child with autism during summer break.
https://blogs.bcm.edu/2023/04/27/q-a-maintaining-a-routine-for-your-child-with-autism-during-summer-break/

Ibanez, L., Kobak, K., Stone, W., Swanson, A., Wallace, L., & Warren, Z. (2018). Enhancing Interactions during Daily Routines: A Randomized Controlled Trial of a Web-Based Tutorial for Parents of Young Children with ASD.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5903955/

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