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routine-ritualIf you work with or care for a loved one with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), I am sure you know that individuals with ASD are known to be somewhat rigid in their routines.  As an individual with ASD, I can relate to what it is like to be very rigid and insistent on certain things. There are some things that I almost always do, and I like those things to stay the same for the most part.

Sometimes my routines and rituals can change or vary slightly. For example, instead of eating oatmeal everyday before school, I now eat a breakfast pancake and sausage corn dog every day for breakfast. Does your child with ASD insist on eating the same things or doing the same thing at a certain day or time? If so, this article is for you.

Striving on Predictability
I strive on predictability. I like to know what is going to happen, when it is going to happen, and then what we are going to do when it is finished. As I have gotten older, I have learned to be more flexible, but sometimes change and being flexible can still be a challenge. One tip I can give is be patient, and remember that change and being flexible is very hard for individuals with ASD, and that they are more than likely trying the best that they can.

Tips for Helping with Flexibility
Here are some tools that I have used, and have found to be helpful:

  • Visual Schedules: words and/or pictures on paper, dry erase board or tablet (See Judy Endow‘s article Hurricane Sandy: Using a Visual Schedule to Support Your Child to learn how to create visual schedules on the fly.)
  • First/Then boards
  • Social Stories
  • Sensory Kit/Tool Kit of calming items to help regulate emotions

Final Tip: Pick Your Battles
Another tip that I have is pick your battles. As an individual with ASD this is something that I do almost everyday. I think, is there really a problem with me eating Mac and Cheese three to four times a week, (along with eating other things) for lunch? No there isn’t, so this is not something that needs to be  changed.

Remember, being flexible can be hard for the individual with ASD, so if they can engage in their routine or ritual without causing harm to themselves or others, let them, especially in high stress situations. High stress situations are not the time to change routines and rituals. If routines and rituals must be changed, do it over time and use visuals and talk about it ahead of time.