This post is all about autism and routines and tolerating a changing routine for those with autism or related special learning needs.
Our students with autism usually thrive when they live with predictable routines. It's comfortable for them when nothing changes because they know what's going to happen.
Life becomes difficult when activities become different from what they expect. Imagine being dropped off in the middle of a strange city and having to figure out where you are and how to get to your destination. What would that FEEL like?
Well, that is what changing routines can FEEL like for those with autism. Often, it doesn't make sense to us because we don't react like that to the smaller variations in our life routines. But it's important to identify the sensation of being out of control that our students can feel.
A classic life experience
Kyle’s mother attempts to take him with her when she does her Saturday morning shopping.
She does not follow a set routine, but shops at different stores, depending on her needs. When they drive past certain stores Kyle becomes upset if she doesn’t stop.
Taking a few pictures can help
Creating a little book of pictures of the typical places they stop (grocery store, dry cleaners, hardware store, etc.) helped Kyle’s mother give him more information during their travels.
She opened the book to show Kyle the picture of where they were going next. Seeing where they were going helped Kyle understand better than if she just told him.
Mom also put pictures of Kyle’s favorite fast food restaurant and a couple of treats in the book. If the plan was to make two stops and then stop for lunch, Mom could rearrange the pictures to show Kyle the sequence of events for that excursion, creating a mini-schedule.
If the plan was to make two stops and then stop for lunch, Mom could rearrange the pictures to show Kyle the sequence of events for that excursion, creating a mini-schedule.
Taking advantage of current technology, Mom could also take some pictures with her phone and use her phone as the communication tool.
Visual Strategies provide simple solutions
Tolerating a changing routine is much easier for individuals with autism or related special learning needs when we use some visual supports to give them information so they can prepare in their minds and anticipate that change.
P.S. I often hear from from parents experiencing problems with their children related to changes in routines. When I ask for information, they will say, "I tell them what is going to happen." But that's exactly the problem. Often, telling is not enough. Showing works better.
This is a simple way to manage autism and routines and helping students with ASD to manage tolerating changing routines.