There are so many different tips out there for helping folks on the autism spectrum. It’s hard to fit them all into four Thursdays in a month! I decided I wanted the last one to be something that just about everyone can use and get help from–visual aids.
Many people on the autism spectrum are visual learners and/or thinkers. I think even the ones who aren’t find comfort in picture schedules, written lists, and more. If they forget something, they can look up and find it!
Dr. J loves lists. In fact, I don’t use this with him as much as I should. If you have a child who cannot organize himself or gets anxious about something that is coming up, why not make a list? Even better, let the child help you make that list!
You can make a basic to-do list for your day. You could break it down into just clean-up time. You could make a list of what you need to do before dinner or even a list of how to make dinner! Whatever you need to do or remember, write it down. Let your child or teen cross off things as you accomplish them.
A spinoff of the to-do list is a visual schedule. Visual schedules relieve anxiety because a child can see what is coming next. It gives structure to their days. When I was agonizing over whether or not to put Dr. J in the Early Childhood Developmental Delay preschool room, his teacher told me, “A lot of the kids’ problems disappear in here. They know exactly what is expected, so they don’t act out. I get warnings all the time about biters, escapees, etc. They don’t act like that when they get to me.” I was leery, but it was true! Dr. J latched on to his visual schedule and his behavior drastically improved!
You can purchase a fancy one, or simply get a dry erase board and make a new one each day. Now, my one recommendation is not to put times on there. Why? Because many spectrum kids will get stuck on the actual time, and if you’re not ready exactly at 3:00 for snack, a meltdown will ensue!
Here’s an example for young children:
Free play time
Another way I implemented visual aids recently was when I made a big change in our apartment. I am trying to make the living room less cluttery and more welcoming. So, I made a plan for moving some toys into the boys’ room now that they’re a bit older.
begged asked Greg if he’d take them out for french fries, and I went to work! My concern, though, was potential anxiety for Dr. J. So, I made a couple of maps to show the new toy locations in his room. This would accomplish two things–reduce anxiety and help the boys (and Daddy) learn where to put the toys away after playing.
Dr. J loved it. In fact, it has been over a month since I did that. Maybe close to two months. And do you know what he did? He added some things and made a map of his own! Isn’t that what we ultimately want–independence?
I know this isn’t a treatise or even that snazzy. My goal is to give you some ideas that have worked for me, and suggest enough that you can brainstorm and come up with your own wonderful tools! If you have any that have worked for you, leave a comment and let the rest of us in on your super secret!
See the radio on the left, with the plug coming down?!