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Routine and planning for change

Many people with autism find unexpected changes in routine difficult. Having routines can help to ease anxiety around certain situations.

How routines can help

Having predictability and consistency in situations can help people to navigate them more easily. For example, if a young person has difficulty getting ready for school and they start displaying behaviours that challenge, setting up a routine can help to reduce anxiety around the uncertainty, set clear goals and establish predictability. This can be achieved using visual schedules, see example below.

Visual timetable

When routines can become an issue

Everyone has routines, such as sitting in the same place on the commute or eating a certain brand of crisps. For people without autism, if these routines are altered, they adjust. For some individuals with autism, a change in routine, however small, could lead to anxiety. As such, strict routines could cause issues if an individual is being supported by someone who is not aware of their exact habits, or if their environment changes such as their regular café being closed.

What to do if routines are becoming a problem

Changes are inevitable and throughout everyone’s lives we are exposed to changes such as moving house, changing school, changing jobs or new family situations. Proactively preparing for big changes with the help of social stories or visual supports can help to limit the impact of the change. Encouraging flexibility from the start as well as rewarding displays of flexibility can help to ease transitions and manage change.

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