Going to bed at 8PM, waking up and eating breakfast, and going to school are all examples of things that are worked into our daily routine. Routines are especially important for kids on the autism spectrum, because it helps to create and maintain consistency and provide a sense of security. For children in our ABA therapy program, we focus on the importance of routines at home so that the child can continue to work on developing new skills even when they aren’t at PediaPlex. The importance of routines is something that can be seen throughout our entire life as we go from toddlers to teens to adults. Keep reading to see why routines are beneficial for children with autism.
Why Routines Are Important
Routines are important for everyone because it helps keep us on schedule throughout our day. Adults have workout routines, bedtime routines, and so much more to help them be more productive during their day. Just like adults, children benefit greatly from having routines for mealtime, naptime, playtime, etc. Besides just keeping us on time throughout the day, routines can be important for the following:
-Cope with Stress: Unfamiliar situations can often lead to stress. Having a routine in place and using a visual schedule can help children cope during stressful situations.
-Gain Understanding: Routines help children to gain an understanding of daily events and procedures. It also teaches them what is expected of them each day. For example, brushing teeth before bed every night.
–Helps Create Structure: When a child follows a daily routine/schedule, it helps them to know what is coming next in their day. This allows the child to know what to expect, as well as when, so that they are more comfortable during daily transitions.
-Helps with Learning: As a child first starts anything new, like ABA therapy for example, it can be overwhelming. Often being introduced to a new environment can be stressful and make it harder for the child to effectively start therapy or school. As a child gets comfortable in their new routine they will begin to focus better during therapy/school and start to develop new skills and learn more effectively.
-More Productive: Many children with autism thrive with repetition, so doing things daily in the same order comes rather naturally to them. When they are comfortable with their routine, they can be more productive in the long run.
For children with autism, routines are extremely beneficial because they tend to be predictable and reliable which makes them feel more safe and secure. Because children on the spectrum tend to do well with repetition, it’s not surprise that they learn best with daily routines in place.
Tips for Creating Routines
There are many successful ways to create routines for our children, but consistency is key with this process. We encourage our parents to continue with a child’s routine in the evenings after therapy and on the weekends so that their child is consistently working on these skills.
-Let Them Help: Let your child help create their routine. Give them a few options and then let them decide what order they want to do it in. When your child feels as if they had an input they will be more inclined to participate.
-Positive Reinforcers: When working on creating a new routine for your child it’s important to implement positive reinforcers- even something as little as a high five. When a child is positively rewarded for completing a task it will help them to transition to the next task. Maybe your child is working on a task for 30 minutes and then is rewarded with play time after. This is something that can be visually represented on their schedule so they can look forward to it and then are rewarded once the task is completed.
-Time to Review: Give your child time to review their daily schedule. This will help them remember what is going to happen next during their day. The more familiar they get with their daily visual schedule, the more it will start to become a routine for them.
-Stay Consistent: Of course, a child’s weekend is going to be different than their normal day in ABA therapy or at school. But that does not mean they can’t still follow their daily routine. Keep them on their normal morning and bedtime schedule and utilize a visual schedule to help them transition through your weekend activities.
-Visual Timers & Schedules: With visual timers your child is able to see how much time is left of their activity. Between this and a verbal warning when time is almost up will help them to wrap up their activity and transition to their next activity. With their visual schedule you can show them what will be happening through their day. Throughout the day they can mark their activity as ‘done’ so they know it has been completed, and they can proceed to the next thing.
An important thing to remember when working on creating routines is to always be flexible. Plans will change and they might not match the schedule you, or your child, had in mind. When this happens, it’s ok! Be sure to give your child a warning ahead of time and prepare them as much as you can so that when it’s time to transition they aren’t as caught off guard.
In ABA Therapy at PediaPlex we work with children on the autism spectrum and help them to create routines in their day. We have visual schedules posted through the clinic that helps let the children know what comes next in their day. An example of our day could be the following:
-9AM: Drop off at PediaPlex
-9:30AM-10AM: One-on-One Instruction Time
-10AM-10:30AM: Speech Therapy
-10:30AM-11AM: Snack Time
-11AM-11:30AM: Circle Time
-11:30AM-12PM: One-on-One Instruction Time
-12PM-12:30PM: Lunch Time
-12:30PM-1PM: Gym Time (Inside or Outside)
-1PM-1:30PM: Arts & Crafts
-1:30PM-2PM: Occupational Therapy
-2PM-2:30PM: Snack Time
-2:30PM-3PM: Social Skills Training
-3PM-3:30PM: One-one-One Instruction Time
-3:30PM-4PM: Clean Up
-4PM: Parent Pick-Up
We have our schedule posted throughout the clinic with visuals to help our clients visually see what is next. The child’s ABA therapist will help them to transition between activities and will use a visual timer to let them know when time is almost up for that activity.
Throughout a child’s day at PediaPlex they will often receive speech, feeding, or occupational therapy in addition to their ABA therapy. We conveniently have these services in our facility so that your child can easily transition to and from these additional services. Our collaborative approach to therapy allows your child’s different therapists to communicate with each other on your child’s plan of care. This ensures we are all following the same goals.
If your child is in needing to start pediatric therapy in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, fill out our intake form today. Our team of therapists are looking forward to meeting you!
-The PediaPlex Family