How to Create Successful and Effective Routines for Your Child with Autism

Routines are incredibly important for your child, to hear more about this, check our previous blog post on the importance of routines. The next step is to create successful routines for your child, that is what we’ll be covering today.

No one wants to be a taskmaster. But it’s very easy to fall into that role when trying to get a child to do anything, let alone something as monotonous as brushing teeth. Heck, a lot of responsible adults don’t even brush their teeth twice a day. So getting a kid to do the same is no small feat. 

Calm Autism Routines

Here’s a 4-step guide to creating daily routines with your child, that begins and ends with C.A.L.M. 

Below are our tips to Stay C.A.L.M and Routine On

  1. Create

You can’t have a routine if you don’t create one. Start by identifying each task you’d like your child to complete, list them out, and organize a structured schedule. Designate when each should occur and for how long.

The routine should be visually engaging and something your child will respond to positively. Fun drawings or a photo of your child performing each task work really well. As can electronic devices specially designed for child routine management. (We’ll discuss these more below.)

Creating this routine together with your child can be a nice shared activity. So have fun and get creative! 

  1. Alert

Creating a routine is one thing, sticking to it is another. (Just ask all those unfulfilled New Year’s resolutions.) So stay on schedule with alerts, no matter how busy things get.

Whenever a task is supposed to happen set an alert on your phone that both you and your child recognize. Use a timer for time-dependent situations, like to make sure your child brushes for a full two minutes. 

Alerts can also help eliminate some of the monotony of the routine by setting a different tone or noise (animal sounds are really fun) for each task. Best of all, over time, your child may even start doing tasks on their own when they hear the familiar reminder going off.

  1. Like

A little positive reinforcement can go a long way. So be sure your child knows how much you like what they’re doing every step of the way. 

You can even incorporate this into your visual schedule (as we’ll see below). The same way you’d “like” a Facebook post, you can like, star, thumbs up, check off, or otherwise positively indicate on the schedule that not only has a task been completed, but your child did a great job.

Communication is a central part of establishing routines, especially early on. Refer to the schedule throughout the routine. Talk with your child about each task as they take part in it. Use the prompt hierarchy to guide them, such as pointing out what they’re doing on your visual schedule. Praise them for completing each task successfully. 

  1. Maintain

Maintaining a daily routine will likely be the hardest challenge. At least at first. 

But the longer you keep up a regular schedule, the easier it will be to maintain. So stay consistent. In the beginning, be sure to complete each task in the order they are listed as best as possible, as often as possible.

Once the routine is firmly established, try gradually adding new elements, like conducting the routine at another family member's home, or even slowly phasing aspects out, such as an alert. Small deviations can introduce flexibility, helping children to cope should changes occur.

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.


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