Provide your child with schedules and timers so that they can see clearly what is happening and when. An egg timer works well as a visual cue for children with Autism - or alternatively, we have even been known to put markings on the wall clock to show the times for different parts of our daily routine. Alarm clocks and oven timers can also be used as part of a routine, for example to remind a child that it is time to change tasks, get ready for bed, or leave for school. Establish daily routines as early as possible and stick to them as best you can.
Having now said that, of course change is inevitable in life, and with change comes disruptions to routines - yes, a potential nightmare for a child with Autism.
There are many strategies that can be used to help a child with Autism work through day to day change. Picture cards are fabulous and are a strategy that we use regularly in our home. The picture cards show images and photos of the many things that we do during the day, places we visit, and tasks that need to be completed. At the beginning of a day, we select the cards that represent what will be happening for that day. We stick the cards up on a velcro strip, and as we move through the day we remove each card and 'post' it in a 'completed' box as we finish with a task or scenario. The benefit of the cards is that the child is able to see the full days 'story' and can predict what will happen next. We also use picture cards for getting ready for kinder, getting ready for dinner, or getting ready for bed - the cards outline the tasks that need to be completed, one after the other.
Again, the best made plans can go out the window when an unexpected visitor knocks on the door, or we run out of milk and need to make a quick trip to the shops. We have a '?' or 'what if' card that we use for these times. It is a card that can be thrown into the mix at any time, and the child understands that this card can mean change. To begin with the '?' card is unpredictable, and a lot of time and patience is required with its use. However, the '?' card used consistently when a change arises will eventually give the child a sense of predicability - the child begins to associate it with change and begins to realise what sort of things to expect from this and as such is better able to cope.
Remember that children with Autism love routine. When changes to your child's routine need to occur, make sure you allow them plenty of time to adjust to the change, use visual cues when you can and provide plenty of support to help them through it. The result - a more relaxed child and a less stressed parent!
(By Elissa Plumridge [http://www.managingautism.com] - this article may not be altered, and must retain the authors details)