For autistic children, a sudden change can be incredibly stressful. Whether the change is something small, like visiting a new doctor, or something large, like staying overnight somewhere, the sudden disruption of routine can cause the child anxiety.
My World ABA explains some tips for helping your child deal with a change in routine.
Routines Are Important
For autistic children, routines and rituals are extremely important. Children in general like consistency and routines because they like to know what to expect. It makes them comfortable to know what is coming next, and they can prepare themselves for it. This is why children will often watch the same show over and over again, even if they have seen it so many times they have memorized it. It is familiar and comfortable, and they understand it. Routines also offer a sense of security and safety.
This is usually amplified in children with autism because they are sensitive to things like unfamiliar sounds, people, smells, and places. Having a daily routine helps children know what is coming next, makes them more independent, and is good for their confidence and mental health. Disrupting that routine with something new creates uncertainty, anxiety, and fear.
Tips for Dealing With Changes
If something is coming that you know will cause a disruption in your child’s routine, the best thing you can do is plan ahead. Don’t wait until the day of to announce a new doctor’s appointment, start discussing it weeks before so your child has time to mentally prepare.
Some things you can do include:
- Discuss exactly what will happen.
Communicate with your child in a way that they can understand exactly what the change will be. Every child is different, so do it in a way that makes sense to them. You can show pictures of the place, talk about what they will hear and see, and make a timeline of the day’s events from start to finish, including the new change. They will be more comfortable if they know what to anticipate.
- Bring comfort items.
Bring some of your child’s favorite items that will help them feel less stressed, including stuffed animals, blankets, fidget toys, tablets, or anything that will lessen their anxiety.
- Plan something fun afterward.
If you know the event will be stressful no matter what, plan a fun event afterward. Let your child know that as soon as you are done you can do their favorite thing, like go to a park, visit a relative, get ice cream, or something similar. Then when they become distressed you can remind them “This is almost over and then we are going to grandma’s!” or “In a few minutes we will leave and get ice cream!”
The best way to support your child during a change is to be patient with them. Change is difficult for everyone to deal with, but even more so for those who struggle with coping skills. Give yourself and your child grace in stressful situations, and use those situations that don’t go as planned as learning opportunities for the next one. Planning ahead and practicing will help you and your child successfully deal with routine changes in the future.
My World ABA Autism Services in Springfield and Joplin, MO
My World ABA is the leading center for ABA treatment in both Springfield and Joplin, MO. Our team works with your child using certified ABA therapy techniques to help them learn more about themselves and the world around them. We support your child by creating an inclusive environment where they can play, build friendships, and be themselves.
To learn more about our services or answer additional questions, visit our website online or call (417) 818-5784 today.