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 consistency in situations can help people with autism to deal with them more easily. For example, if a young person finds it hard getting ready for school, they may start displaying behaviours that challenge. Setting up a routine can help to reduce stress around the uncertainty, set clear goals and create habit. This can be done using visual supports, see visual schedule example below. Social stories can help implement daily routines.
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. Neurotypical people are able to adjust more easily to change. For some people with autism, a change in routine, however small, could lead to anxiety. As such, strict routines could cause issues if a person 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 in life. This could be moving house, changing school, changing jobs or new family situations. Proactively preparing for big changes can help to limit the impact of the change. Social stories or visual supports are great tools to support this. Encouraging flexibility from the start as well as rewarding fluidity can help to ease transitions and manage change.
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