We all know that routine is important, and we all know that children thrive on routine. It provides structure and predictability to the day. It also provides meaning and purpose and is important for everyone’s physical and mental health.
For children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), the world can feel unpredictable and overwhelming, and so having a set daily routine and structure provides stability and familiarity.
And then along comes COVID 19.
All of a sudden there is no school and no social activities to go to, maybe both parents are at home but it’s not like the usual weekend or holiday fun because they are trying to work in the spare bedroom….everything is different. For children with ASD, you might notice increased agitation, more stimming behaviours or more frequent meltdowns as they try to process and cope with all the changes.
In this unusual time we find ourselves in – the midst of a global pandemic and living in lockdown– routine is all the more important to help our children to feel safe and secure, and to reduce anxiety.
There is no one-size-fits all with routines, each child and family unit are unique and what works well for your family will look different to your friend’s and extended family’s routines.
What does a ‘good day’ look like for your family? What does your child respond well to? What are their favourite things to do? What calms them down when they are upset? What do they enjoy most during the day?
Here are some great resources available online from Altogether Autism:
Tips and Suggestions
– Include whole body sensory rich activity to your child’s day.
Children with ASD often have sensory processing challenges and it is vital that their sensory needs are met to support their regulation. Some children need lots and lots of physical activity to calm their sensory system, and some need lots of input to ‘jazz’ them up! Each child is unique. Try to incorporate sensory activities appropriate to your child’s needs regularly throughout the day, this will be more beneficial than just one big play session in the day.
The following is a great resource from the STAR Institute on sensory balanced daily schedules:
Or you can contact occupational therapists at Cornerstone Therapy for support more specific to your child.
– Use visual supports
Visual supports can be really useful for children with ASD, you might already be using these at home. Visuals are easier for children to understand than verbal or written instructions, especially if your child is already feeling stressed or anxious. You might use a daily visual schedule, or use visuals to support with specific routines such as toothbrushing. It can be great to use a visual schedule that you show your child every morning, and frequently during the day if needed, so that they know what will be happening on that day. Some children respond well to photos, others concrete items like being shown the toothbrush or the spoon, others will like pictures like below. What does your child respond well to?
You can create your own visuals using your phone to take photos, for example.
Here is a useful link to make your own visual schedule:
If you would like support to create visual supports specific to your child’s needs and your family please contact the therapists at Cornerstone Therapy.
– General tips for parents/guardians
- Get up at the same time that you normally would
- Think of your day in chunks of time, this will help you plan your routine
- Try to have regular mealtimes
- Make time for exercise, listening to music, podcasts, reading books, listening to stories
- Getting out in the garden, going outside (while maintaining social distance)
- Take frequent breaks – even if this is just having a few minutes to yourself here and there throughout the day.
Stay safe and stay home