“I can’t even talk on the phone/take a shower/ visit with guests because my child gets into everything.”
“She spends all day moving from toy to toy, and I’m constantly cleaning the house and picking up.”
“She doesn’t have any hobbies.”
“I can’t sit down/watch TV/talk to my spouse, because I have to entertain my child.”
“How do I stop my son from hitting and annoying his siblings all day long.”
“His teacher says he’s fine at school, but here at home he is just climbing the walls!”
These are just a few of the questions/comments I hear from parents who have no routine inside of their home. I personally feel this is bigger than an ABA issue and is really just an organization issue. I think most parents could benefit from incorporating structure into the household, but especially parents raising children with Autism.
Many parents raising children with Autism see that there is order and routine inside of their child’s classroom, but for some reason don’t see a need to generalize this same type of structure into the home environment. Any teacher of special needs children can tell you that without a schedule and routine, chaos would ensue.
Households without structure and order tend to have all kinds of problems:
* Transitioning issues
* Compliance issues
* The children don’t initiate activities (if bored, they just bother their parents instead of finding something to do)
* The kids fight and aggravate each other all day
* The house is hard to keep clean; toys, puzzles, games are scattered everywhere
* Keeping the kids entertained is placed on Mom and Dads shoulders
A red flag for me is when I am meeting with parents and we can’t hold a conversation because they keep stopping every few seconds to tell their child to get down…to be quiet….to stop hitting their sister…..to put the cat down…..to get off the table….or my favorite: to “Go Play” (the words “Go Play” mean nothing to a child with no play skills).
If your household sounds anything like this, then you and your family could benefit from creating a schedule to put structure and routine into your home.
So where do you start?
1. Write out the schedule for your home divided up by time increments, starting with what already happens everyday (such as dinner). Be sure to add in structured activities for your child, such as Water Play, Fine Motor Activities, or Art.
2. Decide how you want your child to transition through the activities. Do you want to use timers? Sound cues, such as playing a specific song? Giving the child a directive, such as “Its time for Art”? Each activity needs a clear start and stop, so the child can easily transition.
3. Modify your home to accommodate the schedule. For example, you may need to set up areas of the home for different activities, section off large rooms so multiple activities can happen in that room, put items and objects away in cabinets or drawers when they aren’t needed for an activity, and label areas so the child knows where to go to do the activity. If the schedule says your son is to do homework everyday after school, then there should be 1 designated homework area, and any needed supplies (paper, pens, calculator, etc.) should be kept nearby.
4. Create a visual schedule, or write out the schedule and display it in a central location in the home.
5. Explain the new schedule and routine to your child in simple language he/she can understand.
6. Teach your child to follow the schedule. This is a step many families skip. It isn’t enough to make a routine and hang it up in the living room. The routine must be taught, and will take your child time to learn. Be firm, use lots of prompts and reminders, and do not allow your child to deviate from the schedule. If the schedule says its time for Reading & Vocabulary, then it doesn't matter if the washing machine breaks, the cat gets sick, or the new neighbors drop by unexpectedly: stick to the schedule.
Creating a schedule for the home will bring order, quiet, and structure into your household. Parents have consistently told me that they have more free time after implementing a schedule. The reason why is simple: when the children are appropriately engaged, it is no longer up to Mom and Dad to constantly put out behavioral fires or keep the kids entertained.
Below is a sample schedule for the home:
** Quick Tip: I really like this YouTube video posted by a Mom showing how she made her entire house ABA-Friendly. Click here to watch the video.