How to establish routine
This article will look at the importance of routine and consistency for children with Asperger’s. Children with Asperger’s not only need routine, they crave it! To be honest all children really benefit from routine but it is even more important for children with Asperger’s. Establish daily routines as early as possible and stick to them. Your child will also have to be prepared for changes in routines, as we all do, so provide them with a method to deal with change. Because as we all know the best laid plans can easily come unstuck. Like for example a trip out in the car being delayed or postponed because of a puncture.
The preparation may include visual reminders, such as a schedule and timer (maybe like an egg timer for younger kids and just a regular watch/clock for older ones). Dependent on the age and ability of your child the schedule can be just writing or have pictures/images too. Another great idea I have seen used is an “oops” card. This is basically a piece of card with the word “oops” written across it in big letters. The children are then taught that this means that there is to be an unexpected change. After time, and a number of experiences of this, they soon begin to associate the card with a change. And cope much better with the change, as a result. So in a strange roundabout way the “oops” card that indicates a change to the routine coming up actually becomes something consistent in their life. And as you know children with Aspergers cope much better with consistency.
When changes need to occur, make sure they have plenty of time to adjust to the change. Give them verbal cues of changes that will take place, in increments as needed. Routine will also need to include a time for homework, a time for bed, and a morning routine in order to make their transition to school successful. To the extent that is possible, avoid changes in routine. When change is necessary, give them the tools to deal with that change (like the “oops” card). This may all seem like a lot of work and in the beginning it can be. But overall it saves a lot of time and energy for everyone. By taking a “short cut” of not providing any planned consistency the result is likely to be a more distressed child with a lot more difficult and challenging behaviors to cope with in the long term.
To briefly summarize then it is very important for parents to help their child by providing consistency and routine for them in their day-to-day life. Within this a system to help the child cope with the inevitable unplanned changes that can occur is also needed. Taking such an approach will save time and energy for everyone in the long run.