Thursday, August 4, 2011

Why Children With Autism Need Schedules

Believe it or not, schedules play a very important part in every child's life. Children like schedules because it permits them to anticipate what will happen when. But having a schedule is particularly important for the autistic child. Autistic children need a sense of structure which helps to overcome the feelings of anxiety they typically have. They know what to expect during the day and what activity they will be during at what times during the day.

The lack of a schedule in an autistic child's life can make things very hectic, both for them and for you. If you are the type of person who just "remembers" doctor appointments and other commitments and does whatever activity feels right at the time, then good for you but you are going to have to change that for the benefit of your autistic child, where autism almost requires structure and a schedule.

Many autistic children exhibit many problems in reading, in which case you are encouraged to use a "visual schedule" to assist them. On this visual schedule, you will put pictures of each daily activity, which allows them to see what is coming next. Having such a schedule posted where the child can always see it will help to avoid the occasional breakdowns. If you need to make a change to the schedule for whatever reason, be sure to take extra time to carefully explain it to the child. Children with autism like a schedule and routine, and even a minor change can put a huge dent in their whole day.

Schedules can also be used to encourage the child to do something that you already know they do not want to do. Show them the activity or task and carefully explain that this task must be completed before you can move on to the next activity, pointing to the next activity. Be firm in letting them know that the next activity cannot be done until the first task has been completed.

Life is unpredictable and there will be days when something comes up, although you should try to stick to the schedule as much as possible. If something comes up, try to get back on schedule as quickly as possible so as to avoid the high levels of anxiety that the child will experience. This schedule also applies to something like what time to get up in the morning and bed time - keep those times the same every day as it represents a part of the normal schedule.

While having a schedule is important for all children, it is particularly important for autistic children. If you can understand that they require structure and routine to avoid anxiety, you will have a much better opportunity to work with them and teach them new things. In fact, as time goes as, you may even want to include a new daily activity that you will introduce into the schedule, perhaps labeled something like "Learn Something New". Keep it simple but use this scheduled time to ease into learning something new. Be sure to keep it positive so that the child will look forward to it, which is a good reason to start this new activity slowly and let it build over time as the child gets used to this new part of their routine.

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