Thursday, July 21, 2011

Autism 101 - How Changes In Structure And Routine Can Negatively Affect Your Autistic Child

Structure and routine are two common things that are needed in an autistic child's world. They have difficulties adjusting to changes and can become quite upset, and even angry when things don't go as they should. And these melt downs can make the change in routine even harder to handle.

An autistic child survives on things remaining the same.

Something as simple as day light savings time, when the external time is an hour off of their internal time, can create a nightmare for parents. Bedtime is now an hour different, meal times as well. Your child's body will be telling him one thing, while you're contradicting it, and telling him it's a different time. End result, a week or so of meltdowns as they readjust to the time.

Another thing that can disturb them and cause a meltdown is something like a field trip in school. Instead of the regular routine they are expecting, the whole day turns upside down. While the other children are excited and happy over the field trip, your little one is stressing and fretting over the change.

And these are just two examples of many things that can change the structure and routine of the daily life of your autistic child. Which leads us to the question, how can we minimize or prevent the meltdown from happening?

Dependent on your child's level of communication and understanding, this can be a difficult to almost impossible task.

In the case of day light savings time, you can try a week ahead of the change to slowly change the time for your child. Instead of them having to adjust to an entire hour difference, you start slowly, changing the schedule 10 minutes at a time over the course of a week.

In terms of things like field trips, all you can try to do is communicate to them the change that will be taking place and prepare them as far in advance as you can, so that it doesn't come as such as shock to them.

Life will always bring changes we cannot avoid. Knowing this ahead of time, and understanding the turmoil and upset it will create in our little ones is an integral step in making their lives run a little smoother.

Changes in routine and structure can be alarming and disturbing to autistic children. Doing our best as parents and caregivers to prepare them for that change is all we can do. From there all we can do is be there for them and supporting them when the meltdown ensues.

Autism affects the world around us. For more tips on parenting an autistic child, click here!

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