How to Help Children with Autism Deal with Change

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child listening to headphones, help children deal with change

Many adults and children are resistant to change. We enjoy following a specific routine and can be left feeling frustrated or unhappy when something disrupts that routine – for example, think about how frustrated you are when you miss the bus on the way to work. However, small changes such as this can have a seriously detrimental effect on a child with autism or a related disorder, as they tend to rely much more strictly on routines.

One of the key indicators in determining whether or not a person has autism is how they respond to a routine. For example, children with autism typically tend to demonstrate repetitive behavior patterns. They like to do things a certain way and becoming increasingly upset when something gets in their way. Often, this can lead to a meltdown.

However, change is a constant and unavoidable aspect of life – especially in the current climate. Here are some examples of the types of change your child may experience:

  • Changing classrooms/teachers
  • Meeting new friends
  • Meeting a new family member (a little brother or sister)

Therefore, we need to find a way in which to help prepare children with autism to handle change appropriately and with confidence. With that in mind, we’ve compiled some top tips on how to make change seem less daunting.

1) Communication

Although it is impossible to ‘plan ahead’ for all changes, there are ways in which you can help make change less scary by occasionally disrupting their routine. For example, if you are walking home from school, try taking a different route to usual. However, before doing so, communicate this with your child. Say, “We’re going a different way home today, what do you think?”. Listen to their response and comfort them should they need any additional support. However, it is important that you follow through with the plan even if they resist. Try this a few times a month. Then, one day, simply take the different route without communicating it beforehand.

Children with autism are most affected by unexpected change, so by gradually introducing change into their daily life, you are helping them find a way of preparing themselves for it.

2) Schedule in a surprise

This technique is quite similar to the one discussed above. Start keeping a visual copy of your schedule, that shows what you are doing and when. Then, start adding a ? in one of the time slots, without giving your child any further information. This means that they are aware a change will occur, and they can begin to prepare themselves for it.

In both of these techniques, be sure to reward your child when they demonstrate flexibility. It is not easy for them, and praise helps them understand that they are doing the right thing.

3) ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis)

ABA is a popular type of therapy, which utilizes the principles of behavior, learning and motivation in order to allow your child to develop new skills that are useful in everyday life. This means that a trained therapist can help your child understand change – why it is necessary and how they can cope with it when it does occur. They can also provide you with guidance on how to help introduce change at home.

At Allee behavioral, we have years of combined experience in working with children with autism and related disorders to ensure they reach their full potential. In addition to ABA, we provide a wide range of therapeutic services, such as Speech Therapy and Occupational therapy both online and in-person, that can be tailored to the individual needs of your child.

4) Social Stories

Social stories were invented by Carol Gray in the 1990s. Carol is an experienced consultant with years of experience working closely with adolescents with autism and related disorders and created social stories as a way of helping children develop a greater understanding of the world around them. As a result, social stories can be used to introduce change.

A social story is a short story that describes what is happening to the child in a way that they can understand. For more information about how they work, check out Carol Gray Social Stories.

So, if your child is about to start school for the first time, you can tailor a story to help prepare them for this change. For example:

  • It is time to start at my new school.
  • I will get to meet my teacher and new friends.
  • I am excited to learn more about the world.’

Many other free examples of social stories are available online.

In short, the best way you can help prepare your child for change is by teaching them that it is unavoidable, but not scary. Sometimes, change can be fun and exciting – such as when you get to meet a new friend or learn something new.