Tools to Help Individuals with Autism

We are a few weeks into the new year and most of us are probably settling into our 2023 routines. Coming back from an extended break or time off is not easy. During these times, our routines are typically thrown off and the holidays can add a little bit of chaos. We all need time to get back into the swing of things.

Individuals with autism often have a more difficult time adjusting back into routines after long breaks. Families with an individual with autism might notice changes in behavior, mood, and even motivation after this time off, making it challenging to get back on track.

Using tools for scheduling, planning, and adjusting back into routines can be helpful for the individual and the family.

  • Visual Schedules: Use a visual schedule to lay out the routine based on what would work best for the individual. Schedules can have varying levels and work together to increase predictability and demonstrate the schedule in different ways. Schedules can show daily, weekly, or even monthly activities. These should be tailored to the individual’s level. For example, using pictures for individuals that can’t read yet or words for those who can read.
  • Visual Routines for Activities: For activities that may be hard to accomplish or get back into, a visual routine can be made. These visual routines break down the task step-by-step based on the individual’s needs. Like with the previous tool, tailor these to best meet the level of the individual. For example, a routine can be created for homework time to show what needs to be done and in what order.
  • Social Stories: Social stories can help to explain activities, routines, expectations, and many other things. They can be easily made at home and individualized to meet the level of the individual. Social stories are usually written in first person, as if the individual were reading it. These can be read to the individual and by the individual. You can read them before an activity or expected behavior. For example, you can use a social story about an after-school activity and read it before the activity so that expectations about what will happen during the activity are clear.
  • Electronic devices: Electronics like phones and tablets can also be great tools for getting back into routines and sticking to routines. You can use the calendars, alarms, and reminders, and check out apps that may help. For example, you can set an alarm as a reminder to complete a task 15 minutes prior to when the task should be completed, another when there are 5 minutes to when the task should be completed, and one when it is time to get started on the task.

These are just a few tools that can be used. It may take some trial and error to find what works best. Be patient and be creative. You should also check in with the individual with autism to see what their preferences are.

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