Routine Boundaries: Is It Okay To Push Them?

Quarantine and lockdown have set the world upside down. Schools, parks, museums, and even pools are being shut down. Most activities that we were used to, have changed, and are being implemented at home. While this can be upsetting for anybody, it can take the challenge up to a new level for families in the spectrum. The reason disrupted routines.

Why Autistic Children Thrive in Routines?

Children in the spectrum love predictability. Uncertain situations or unknown places can create anxiety and stress, and if not managed properly even meltdowns. 

Predictability is key when it comes to supporting ASD learning. Repetition and patterns give children a sense of certainty, security, and confidence. This is why having an established routine is important to help your child understand what is coming next and help him/her know what is required from him/her.

Quarantine and Disrupted Routines

Since the WHO has set America under quarantine since March, it is normal to have changes in routine schedules. Some days you feel like staying in and watching movies, others, you want to stay out in your backyard. We get it. It is nearly impossible to do the same thing, at the same time, every day for so long. However, the constant disruption of schedules can confuse ASD children and even break long term habits.

Is It Okay To Push a Routine?

So is it okay to push routines? The answer is; it depends. For example, if you are used to waking up at 7:00 am and one day you decide to wake up at 8:30 am, this change will represent an alteration in breakfast time, home school lessons, etc.

The trick for pushing routines is similarity. If your son is used to having an allowance of 45 minutes to play on the iPad, and one day you switch that to 45 minutes of T.V, that is okay. If your son is used to taking a bath after dinner and one day you decide to switch that to a shower, that is okay.

The key to pushing routines in a healthy way is to have an “equal” or equivalent activity to replace the other one. The same goes for timing. If you push your childs bedtime by 20 minutes, that is acceptable, but if you let him/her stay up for 2 hours after that can be a problem.

Quick Tips for Healthy Routine Changes

Small changes in childrens routines, can be positive. If applied properly they can help ASD children deal better with unexpected situations and even empower them to become more flexible.

The following tips will give you a better idea of how to make healthy routine changes into your childs schedule.

  • Use routines as the mainstay for your childs day. But as anxieties decrease take the opportunity to make small changes.
  • Give your child advice on what is about to happen next. Even if its something that he/she is used to like bath time, let him/her know that it is coming next in the event that you decide to make a change before it.
  • Use visuals to explain the coming activities.
  • Set short and long term goals for your child. A good example can be dinner habits; if now he only eats fish nuggets, make it a goal for him/her to eat steam fish.  In our blog post Supporting Your ASD Child’s Nutrition, you can find lots of tools to help you implement food chaining techniques at home.
  • Let go of fear. Don´t be afraid of pushing your childs boundaries a little, you might be surprised at how well he/she responds to small changes.

Remember, the goal is to equip your child to be happy and face unknown situations with security and flexibility. Dont be afraid of making small changes!

How are you dealing with schedules during quarantine? Do you have a particular tip that has worked for you? Share it with us!

At WSCC, we offer support for autistic families and their children with Stem Cell Therapy treatments that can transform autistic conditions by healing the gut, decreasing inflammation, and improving brain function. We also created an autistic community on Facebook that is destined to offer support and companionship for ASD parents and their families on their journey.

Remember, you are not alone!