Children with autism thrive on routine, especially in their home habits and in recurring activities. Creating a daily routine schedule for your child is a great way to create comfort, a learning mechanism, and provide them with the best opportunity for consistent development.
We know it’s not always easy to decide which exercises, chores, and daily activities for kids should comprise this routine. It is going to be specific to your family, your child, and their environment, but we have created step-by-step guidelines that have led families to success. Read ahead if you’re looking to create your child’s daily schedule to help them thrive.
Why is a Routine Important for a Child with Autism?
Research has shown that routine is beneficial for all children and humans in general. For children with autism, routine is especially important because it helps separate chaotic components of the world that they may have difficulty with from their set routine. In turn, this relieves daily stress from them and allows them to focus on daily tasks.
Additionally, children with ASD often have a natural affinity towards repetitive actions. Providing them a path to productive repetition is a great way to show that routines can be powerful in the right setting. In combination with reduced stress, it will be easier to help learn new skills and tools for success in life.
Step-by-Step Guide for Creating a Daily Autism Routine
Sitting down to put together a daily schedule for your family can seem daunting. However, if you break it down into smaller components, you should be able to address your child’s specific needs alongside yours.
1) Analyze the structure of a typical day
Part of creating a schedule for a day is assessing how your family’s time generally is used. It is easier to start with the most commonly occurring and time-consuming activities in your daily life and use them as building blocks for more varied tasks.
What time do you wake up and go to sleep? What time does your child wake up and go to sleep? If morning or nighttime transitions are difficult, do you need to address these specifically? Next go to meal times, school or education, and work. These should give you a great baseline for more unique routine creation.
2) Define Goals for your child and family
One of the main reasons for creating a daily routine schedule for kids with autism is to empower their ability to relax, learn, and grow. While thinking through their schedule, what activities will help them do these things? Ask yourself what types of activities and associated time they respond best to, and schedule those around some of the tougher items so that there is balance in the schedule for everyone.
3) Create your family’s baseline routine
Putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) is daunting, but it also provides a great sense of accomplishment once you’ve done it. Don’t worry – nothing is final about this, but you have to start somewhere.
This routine should include all normally scheduled activities as well as allotted times for concepts (playtime, relaxation time, alone time for parents/children, etc.). You can have your whole family give their input on if the dynamic is healthy; this way they will feel like they have agency in the activities later on.
4) Enforce the Schedule
Although your family should ideally be familiar with the tasks and their timing, the goal of a routine is to stick to it. Thus, there should be a person who alerts all family members of activities and holds them accountable.
We advise creating multiple systems of reminders – a master calendar that is visible in your home, plus some phone alarms, works well. Similarly, if your child responds well to a visualized or color-coded calendar, make sure that is present for them to use as a guide. You can even create fun alerts with animal sounds or something your child is interested in to get them engaged in an upcoming activity.
5) Tweak, Audit, and Maintain
No schedule will remain the same for a very long period of time – life is hectic, especially while raising a child with autism. However, if you are willing to address the schedule proactively to keep it flowing in the same general manner each day, it will do your child and family wonders.
Make sure to discuss changes with your family, let them know in advance, and add in new elements gradually. It should get easier the more familiar your family is with the general routine, so stick with it!
What Daily Activities Should I Schedule for My Child?
It is safe to assume that your child’s activities and the family schedule surrounding it will be unique to your situation. However, here is an example schedule that someone might create for a school-age child with autism:
7:30 AM Wake up
7:45 AM Brush teeth
7:50 AM Get dressed
8:00 AM Eat breakfast
8:30 AM Arrive at school
9:00 AM – 12:00 PM Normal education
12:00 – 1:00 PM Eat Lunch
1:00 – 3:00 PM Finish school activities
3:00 – 5:00 PM ABA Therapy
5:00 PM Get picked up
6:00 PM Eat dinner
7:00 PM Independent playtime or screen time
7:30 PM Bathe/shower, brush teeth
8:00 PM Reading or pre-bedtime activity
8:30 PM Bedtime
This is just an example template with very basic activities. If your child benefits from nap time, schedule that in. We assume that you and your child will have diverse exercise, social, and play activities that you might want to make part of the regular schedule. Regardless of what those may be, make sure to analyze, track, and assess how the schedule is helping your child and family succeed.
Get on Schedule with Ally Pediatric Therapy
At Ally Pediatric Therapy, we pride ourselves on providing the best resources for families who have children with autism. This includes help in creating schedules and routines with the advice of our experienced ABA therapists. Our goal is to reduce stress and help your child improve in the areas that matter most to their well-being and your family life overall.
If you are ready to take the next step towards a well-managed daily life for your child and family, please reach out today. One of our specialists is ready to get you on the path to success.