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3 Ways to Help Autistic Children Adjust to Changes In Their Routine

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If a change in routine causes anxiety in your child, it can be difficult for them to readjust. Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often require stability and routine to manage daily challenges. Routine can make them feel comforted and in control. However, sometimes major changes can’t be avoided. Here, we’ll dive into 3 ways to help children with autism cope with fluctuations in their routine.

Allow Extra Time

It’s important to give your child extra time to adjust — this includes immediately after the change happens, to get used to the new schedule, and in the future as they adjust to their new routine. This extra time could include simply letting your child “practice” the change. For example, maybe you are preparing for a class field trip that is a long car ride away. You can go through the motions with your child, practice sitting in the car for longer periods of time, and provide them with some of their favorite activities to pass the time.

You can also use time as a tactic to manage their routine: try breaking the day up for your child into small, consistent increments. Use visual cards to show your child what is happening and when. Instituting a schedule can help your child feel comforted by the routine actions, and give them the set time for each activity they need to feel comfortable. 

Increase Rewards 

Positive reinforcement can encourage flexible and calm reactions to change, especially in those children who have difficulty with changes in routine. Making a clear indication of what good behavior is and giving your child a reward they want can help them fall into their new routine smoothly. In conjunction with this, it might be a good idea to take additional pressure off your child where you can. If they have to put their toys away at the end of the day, perhaps that’s something you can take off their plate during the transition until they feel back on track.

A therapist can also help with applied behavioral techniques. Flexibility can be one of your treatment goals, and you can reward flexibility using a structured reward system tailored to your child. 

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Communicate Effectively

Explain to your child what is happening. Even if they don’t want to hear about the change, they will feel better as you prepare them for what to expect. The best way to do this, if possible, is to tell your child about the change as early as you can to mitigate shock. Clearly outline what the change is and how their day will look because of it. Be patient with your child, and let them know you will answer any questions they have about the change. Along with showing them how the change will affect them and rewarding their positive reactions, talking and listening to your child will allow them to cope with the change in their routine. Change can be very hard, so communicating what is happening and why can help your child understand the change. 

Slow and Steady

It takes time to adjust to new routines!  When a change in routine causes anxiety in your child with autism, try these tactics:

  1. Give your child extra time to adjust and practice the change
  2. Increase rewards and decrease responsibility during the transition
  3. Communicate with your child what is happening and why

When your child needs autism treatment solutions that help ease autism and routine changes, Infinite Therapy Solutions is ready. We provide occupational therapy, speech therapy, ABA therapy, and physical therapy in the home or office to meet the needs of your child. Contact Infinite Therapy Solutions in West Orange at 973-939-6280 or in our Bayonne office at 201-455-3144, and learn more about the treatment services we can offer your child.

Driving Directions from West Orange:

to West Orange Clinic: 623 Eagle Rock Avenue. From the center of West Orange, take a left on Mt. Pleasant Ave, go left to I-280 West and merge onto the highway. Take exit 8b onto CR-577 North, to Cedar Grove. Go left on Eagle Rock Ave, and the office is .8 miles on the right.

to Bayonne Clinic: 237 Avenue E. From West Orange, Go to I-280 E toward NJ-21, and stay right to I-95 South, New Jersey Turnpike south, take exit 14C on the right and then take I-78 W to the Holland Tunnel, merge onto I-78 E at Exit 14 A-C on the left hand side. Follow Chosin few Way to Avenue E, the office is 1.2 miles on the right.