Schedules for Kids with Autism: Why Autistic Children Need Schedules

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The Benefits of Schedules for Kids with Autism

Autistic children on the whole do not handle the unexpected well. A change in daily routine can lead to extreme anxiety or an emotional meltdown. Setting up a schedule can help an autistic child feel more secure as they anticipate what will be coming up next. The sense of structure provides a firm boundary for the events of each day and a more settled home life. Schedules for kids with autism can offer the following benefits:

  • An autistic child often has weekly or monthly visits to doctors and therapists. Listing these on the schedule allows the child to prepare mentally for the next appointment.
  • Listing an unwelcome activity on a schedule provides more motivation for an autistic child to get it over and done with so they can move onto something more pleasant.
  • They provide stability for the child. Keep schedules similar in as many ways as possible. This includes times to get up in the morning and go to bed at night, meal times, school, and bathing times.
  • An autistic child may be prone to thoughts of anxiety if left with long stretches of free time. Avoid this by scheduling everything, including homework and playtime.
  • Schedules help children prepare for a change in the routine. If an unusual event such as a vacation is coming up, warn the child and place a sticker or word on the schedule with the date.
  • Schedules set up a structure that a child can follow. This can give a child with autism some independence. By going through the steps on the chart, they can get themselves ready for school or a visit to their therapist.

Example of a Schedule for an Autistic Child

A schedule for an autistic child should be simple and easy to understand. For children who cannot read, pictures can be substituted for words. It is best to use a photograph or a good quality picture as some autistic children are unable to interpret line drawings. The schedule should be mounted in a place where the child will see it on a regular basis. This could be in their bedroom or in the kitchen. Make the schedule look appealing by using the child’s favourite colors, and clear lines. Here is an example of a daily schedule for a child with autism. Parents can fill in appropriate time slots for each activity:

  • Wake up, put on clothes and make my bed
  • Eat breakfast and rinse my plate
  • Catch the bus to school
  • Lunch time
  • Home time
  • Outdoor play in the garden
  • Homework
  • Doctor visit
  • Dinner
  • Bath time
  • TV time
  • Bed Time

While schedules may seem a rigid thing to impose on autistic children, they can actually benefit them by providing structure to their lives. Most children work well within routines but schedules for kids with autism can make them more secure and able to cope with daily life.