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How To Create an Autism Daily Routine

Routines are the bedrock of daily life, especially for children with autism. Creating a consistent daily activities for autistic child schedule is one of the best things we can do for our families. It reduces stress, prevents unwanted emotions, establishes calm and order, and encourages shared family activity. Research has long-touted the importance of daily activities for autistic child of all developmental and learning abilities at home and school. Studies show that children with everyday routines have a 47% likelihood of maintaining robust social-emotional health as they grow older.

Daily Activities for Autistic Children: Creating Structure and Predictability

Autism encompasses a diverse range of experiences, but there are common challenges that individuals on the spectrum often encounter. Establishing a daily schedule can be a valuable tool in addressing these difficulties. Many kids with autism thrive on predictability and routines, and a well-structured schedule can provide them with a sense of order and stability. This can be particularly helpful in managing anxiety-inducing situations, as it makes events more predictable and helps children feel more secure, even in the face of uncertainty.

Read More: Video Modeling App for Neurdivergent Kids

The Importance of a Structured Autism Daily Routine

An organized daily routine can offer numerous benefits for children with autism. Here’s why it is crucial:

  • Promotes Predictability: A consistent daily routine provides a clear outline of what activities and events will occur, reducing uncertainty and helping children anticipate what to expect.
  • Establishes Structure and Routine: Kids with autism often thrive in structured environments. A daily routine offers a predictable sequence of activities, fostering a sense of stability and familiarity.
  • Enhances Transitions: Transitioning between activities can be challenging for kids with autism. A well-structured routine aids in easing transitions by providing a clear order and expectations.
  • Supports Time Management Skills: Following a routine helps children understand the concept of time and develop essential time management skills, allowing them to complete tasks more effectively.
  • Reduces Anxiety: By making the day’s events more predictable, a daily routine helps minimize anxiety and provides a sense of control, ultimately promoting emotional well-being.

How To Create Daily Routines for Kids With Autism: Stay C.A.L.M.:

No one wants to be a taskmaster. But it’s very easy to fall into that role when trying to get a child to do anything, let alone something as monotonous as brushing teeth. Heck, a lot of responsible adults don’t even brush their teeth twice a day. So getting a kid to do the same is no small feat. Taking on that burden day in and day out is stressful. But not all of it has to be. Here’s a 4-step guide to creating daily routines with your child, that begins and ends with C.A.L.M. This strategy is especially effective for autism routines.

1. Create

Having a routine is crucial, but you can’t have one if you don’t create it. First, think about all the tasks you want your child to complete, write them down, and create a structured schedule. You should also designate specific times for each task and decide how long they should take. To make the routine more appealing to your child, try incorporating fun drawings or even a photo of them performing each task. There are also electronic devices available that are specially designed for managing child routines (to be discussed more below). This is a great opportunity to bond with your child, so don’t forget to have fun and get creative while creating the routine together.

2. Alert

Creating an autism daily routine is one thing, sticking to it is another. Stay on schedule with alerts, no matter how busy things get. Whenever a task is supposed to happen set an alert on your phone that both you and your child recognize. Use a timer for time-dependent situations, like making sure your child brushes for a full two minutes.Alerts can also help eliminate some of the monotony of the routine by setting a different tone or noise (animal sounds are really fun) for each task. Best of all, over time, your child may even start doing tasks on their own when they hear the familiar reminder going off.

3. Like

A little positive reinforcement can go a long way. So be sure your child knows how much you like what they’re doing every step of the way. You can even incorporate this into your visual schedule (as we’ll see below). The same way you’d “like” a Facebook post, you can like, star, thumbs up, check off, or otherwise positively indicate on the schedule that not only has a task been completed, but your child did a great job. Communication is a central part of establishing routines, especially early on. Refer to the schedule throughout the routine. Talk with your child about each task as they take part in it.

4. Maintain

Maintaining the daily routine will likely be the hardest challenge; at least at first. The longer you keep up a regular schedule, the easier it will be to maintain. So stay consistent. In the beginning, be sure to complete each task in the order they are listed as best as possible, as often as possible. Once the routine is firmly established, try gradually adding new elements, like conducting the routine at another family members home, or even slowly phasing aspects out, such as an alert. Small deviations can introduce flexibility, helping children to cope should changes occur.

Autism daily routine this image shows a happy child with her mother
Read More: Daily Schedule for Autistic Child and Tracking Process

Example of Daily Schedule for Autistic Child

While your child’s daily schedule will be unique to your family’s needs, the general framework is relatively universal. And while routines might change throughout the year depending on whether they are in school or not, it is essential to take the first step of creating a daily schedule that will eventually be a part of an effective autism routine. Here is an example of a daily schedule for a child with autism who does not yet attend school:

TimeTask
7:00 AMWake Up
7:15 AMBrush Teeth
7:20 AMGet Dressed
8:00 AM Eat Breakfast
8:30 AMGo to School
9:00 – 11:30 AM School Activities*
11:30 AMTherapy
12:00 PM Have Lunch
1:00 – 3:30 PMSchool Activities*
3:30 PMPack Backpack
4:00 PMWait for Mom
4:10 PMGo Home
5:00 PMEat Dinner
6:00 PMScreen Time
7:00 PMStart Bedtime Routine*
7:15 PMBath Time
7:45 PMBrush Teeth
8:00 PMGo to Bed
*assisted by Goally’s visual schedule app.

You can create routines like this for your kiddos in the Goally Visual Schedule App! If you’re not ready to go digital, we also have downloadable chore charts you can check out by filling out the form below!

Tracking the Progress of Your Routines

Understanding a child’s progress is incredibly important. Luckily, daily routines make progress tracking very easy. Each activity in a daily routine can be considered a goal, and each goal has several micro-goals linked to it. One goal leads into the next. Not only does this tiered routine tracking help parents stay organized in the midst of their own busy schedules and easily ascertain areas that might need greater attention, it also can provide positive reinforcement to the children on an ongoing basis and gamify the routine.

This concept of gamification is particularly useful. While not much really changes with the routine itself day-to-day, the achievements do. They are a clear sign of progression and can encourage children to engage. So in that sense a daily routine or activity can be treated as a game that parents and their children play together. When you look at it like that it doesn’t seem so monotonous after all.

Goally | The Safest Tablet for Kids

A young child demonstrates brushing teeth on the best tablet for kids by Goally, highlighting a kid-friendly interface.

Creating Daily Activities and Routines for Autistic Children: Enhancing Structure and Engagement

When it comes to establishing daily routines for autistic children, visual schedules play a crucial role. These schedules not only make routines fun and interactive, but they also provide a constructive framework, similar to a game. Visual schedules utilize images, symbols, and photos to effectively communicate tasks and activities, making them particularly beneficial for young children who can’t read yet and older visual learners.

For families facing the unique challenges of autism, visual schedules are especially valuable. They enhance the structure, promote independence, and reduce anxiety by providing a clear visual representation of the daily routine.

The Importance of Visual Schedules for Autistic Children

By incorporating visual schedules into your child’s daily routine, you can experience several benefits:

  • Enhanced Communication: Visual schedules serve as a visual language that helps children understand and follow daily activities with greater ease.
  • Promoted Predictability: Having a visual representation of the routine provides a sense of predictability, reducing anxiety and meltdowns by ensuring children know what to expect.
  • Increased Independence: Visual schedules empower children to navigate their routines independently, promoting self-confidence and self-reliance.
  • Improved Transitions: Visual cues aid in transitioning from one activity to another, easing the challenges often associated with transitioning for autistic children.
  • Facilitated Focus and Engagement: By providing clear expectations, visual schedules help children stay focused and engaged throughout their daily activities.
Blue Goally device displaying an activity screen from a digital visual schedule. The activity is titled "Brush your teeth" in the top left with an audio cue next to it. Below the title of the activity is a picture of man modeling how to brush teeth. In the middle of the screen there is a numeric timer counting down from 4 minutes and currently on 3:55. To the right of that is a large visual timer for kids with autism and ADHD also counting down. In the top left there is a cancel button represented as a red "x", and at the middle bottom of the screen there are skip, pause and complete buttons. Finally, at the very bottom of the screen there is a progress bar represented in blue and white.

Types of Visual Schedules

Visual schedules come in various forms to suit different needs and preferences. Here some examples:

  • Physical Schedules: Wall-mounted boards, planners, or paper-based schedules that can be easily displayed and referred to.
  • Digital Schedules: Apps or online tools that allow you to make and customize visual schedules on tablets or smartphones for easy accessibility.
  • Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS): A system that uses pictures or symbols on cards to represent activities and promote communication.
  • Task Boxes: Containers or bins with visual cues and materials for specific activities, helping children understand the sequence of tasks.

Choosing the right type of visual schedule depends on your child’s preferences and needs. Experiment with all the different options to find the one that works best for your family.

They are essentially all-in-one tools that help to:

  • Keep track of tasks by checking off completed items
  • Send notifications of tasks by alarms, sound, and vibration
  • Provide visual countdown timers
  • Provide spoken texts for people who have difficulty with reading
  • Help keep focus on the task at hand

Goally | Visual Scheduler for Autism

Does your child struggle with getting ready in the morning independently? Goally’s routine app on the best tablet for kids breaks down large tasks into small, achievable steps for autistic kids. Create custom routines with your own videos & pictures for every step.

These modern visual schedulers help autistic children understand what’s coming next in their daily routine, process any schedule changes without distress, and manage transitions easily, in a game-like setting that is both captivating and comforting.


FAQs About Autism Daily Routine

What is the importance of having a daily routine for children with autism?
Having a daily routine helps children with autism feel a sense of structure and predictability, which can reduce stress and anxiety. It also helps them develop better time-management skills and fosters independence.
How can I create a daily routine for my child with autism?
It's important to create a routine that works for your child's specific needs and preferences. Start by establishing a regular wake-up time and bedtime, and then plan out the day with activities and tasks that your child enjoys and benefits from. Consider visual aids and schedules to help your child understand the routine.
What are some common challenges in establishing a daily routine for children with autism?
Children with autism may struggle with transitions and changes to their routine. They may also have difficulty with sensory issues, such as loud noises or unfamiliar textures. It's important to be patient and flexible, and to work with your child's unique needs and strengths.
How can I make my child's daily routine more engaging and motivating?
Incorporating your child's interests and hobbies into the routine can make it more engaging and motivating. You can also try using positive reinforcement, such as rewards or praise, to encourage your child to complete tasks and activities.
What are some tips for sticking to a daily routine for children with autism?
Consistency is key when it comes to a daily routine for children with autism. Try to stick to the same schedule every day, and be prepared to make adjustments as needed. You can also involve your child in planning and organizing the routine to help them feel more invested in it.

This post was originally published on 12/28/2020. It was updated on 02/26/2024.

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