Have you ever considered making a chore chart for your child with autism or ADHD? Maybe you’ve tried and it fell flat. Maybe you didn’t think it would work so you never started. Core charts may seem like a monumental task that has little to no chance of working with your family. This doesn’t need to be the case, however. Below are some helpful tips to build a better behavior and chore chart for kids who have ADHD or autism.
Creating the Chore Chart
Step 1: Type chores into a Word document
Step 2: Adjust the font and font size for best readability (Tip: Arial Black is a great choice.)
Step 3: Print it out
Step 4: Laminate the paper
Step 5: Cut each task into horizontal strips
Step 6: Apply Velcro command strips to the back of tasks and your chore chart
Not only can your chores now be removed, added, or rearranged on the fly, but they will be easier on the eyes.
Just remember to go easy on the color, too. Flashy colors like bright reds, oranges, and yellows can cause aversions in some situations. Green is always a safe choice. In fact, people see green better than any color.
Color choice is especially important to consider with a child with autism. One study found that due to the hyper-sensation characteristics of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), children with autism respond best to green and brown colors.
Keep tasks simple on chore charts for kids
A chore chart should incorporate tasks that are simple to complete and don’t have too many steps.
Children with ADHD and autism may get too distracted or overwhelmed if the task they’ve set out to do is too complex or takes too much time to complete.
One example is to finish their meal. Then, they can wipe off their plate or throw any remaining food in the trash and put the plate and utensils into the dishwasher. Each task should be broken down into a few small, manageable steps.
Another example - if their chore is to then take care of the dishwasher - try making unloading and loading two separate tasks. This will allow your child to focus on just one end goal at a time. It will also make rewarding for completed tasks easier on you and more fun for them!
If cleaning their room is overwhelming, breaking it down into small steps can help them feel successful along the way: Books on the shelf? Check! Dirty laundry in the hamper? Check! Trains on the train table? Check! Before you (or your child) knows it, these big, daunting tasks can get knocked out.
Keep chores age and developmentally appropriate
Admittedly, it can become challenging to say what is considered age-appropriate where ADHD and autism are concerned.
Dr. Robert Zeitlin discusses that for the development of any chore chart for kids, age-appropriateness of chores should be based on current abilities and strengths which are entirely at the discretion of parents.
For example, if you know your child has sensory needs that are exacerbated by odd smells or textures, it is unlikely that a good chore for them would be loading the dishwasher, where leftover food, coffee grounds, or something similar might line the sink area or dishes where their hands would be touching.
Below are some chart ideas grouped according to age-appropriateness.
Chore chart ideas for 4 to 6-year-olds
Pick up loose toys, place them back in toy box or shelves
Feed household pets
Water house plants
Wipe kitchen table clean
Put shoes in shoe bin or on the shoe rack
Chore chart ideas for 5 to 8-year-olds
Put away groceries
Clean windows and doorknobs
Chore chart ideas for 9 to 11-year-olds
Take out trash
Load and start washing machine
Chore chart ideas for kids ages 12+
Watch younger siblings
Prepare simple dinners or side dishes
Wash the car
Give reasonable time for chore completion
All children need clear limits and boundaries, even those who have ADHD or autism.
Having a well-designed chore or behavior chart means there are reasonable expectations for your child to complete those tasks. For instance, each chore should have a deadline.
It is logical to assume your child can wipe down the table within ten minutes. Giving an endless amount of time to complete chores will not help your child to receive the immediate reward they are seeking.
Furthermore, it may lead your child to take advantage of and put off doing their chores indefinitely. Because in their minds there are no parameters to when they will receive their reward. They could clean the bathroom now, or in an hour when they feel more ‘up to it’ and yet, either way, they’ll get the same reward. Invoking a sense of urgency can go a long way.
Having boundaries and time limits for each chore ensures they get done in a timely fashion. Knowing also that a reward will be given immediately thereafter can keep children motivated and focused.
Ashley Lavoie is a mom of three and manages both child and adult ADHD and neonatal diabetes. She is advocating for awareness and loves writing and connecting with other families like hers.
Editor's note: This information is not meant to diagnose or treat and should not take the place of personal consultation, as needed, with a qualified healthcare provider and/or BCBA.