The Importance of Routines for Your Autistic/Neurodiverse Child

Family, parents, grandparents and 2 children sitting at the dinner table, eating, talking and smiling

When parenting your autistic/neurodiverse child, it is important to understand what generally works best, but also to understand what works best for your child specifically. Every child is different. There are autistic /neurodiverse children who deal with schedule changes and inconsistencies pretty well. But, for the most part, your child will do better when she has daily routines and her life is fairly predictable. Many parents find that when they tell their child in advance of what is going to happen, their child is much more cooperative.

Here are tips to providing the structure your child most likely needs. Use your judgment and knowledge of your child based on their level of need and understanding.

1.  Have the same routine for things your child does on a daily basis; bathing, teeth brushing, changing clothes, meals times, etc. (You can have your child check off each task and use rewards if she has trouble finishing daily tasks.)

2.  Make a visual schedule in a way that your child can understand using apps, pictures, words, or drawings. A Day in Our Shoes website offers free, printable visual schedules.

3.  Use a calendar to mark events that don’t happen daily;  church, sports, scouts, visits with family and friends, etc.

4.  Build in choices when you can. For example, if everyday at 3 pm is playtime, give your child a choice of 2 or 3 activities, and help them choose. (Many children on the Autism Spectrum have difficulty with unstructured time, and making choices can be overwhelming.)

5.  When your child is having fun, it’s even more important to prepare him for when he needs to stop. For example, when your child is playing video games, setting a timer can be helpful so your child knows that when the timer goes off, it is time to stop.  (If stopping fun activities is difficult for your child, try using rewards.)

6.  Once your child is doing well with the routine, you can start to vary it little-by-little so your child gets used to changes and learns flexibility.

Please feel free to contact us if you have questions or would like help with these steps.