How to Support a Child with Autism at Home

How to Support a Child with Autism at Home
Visit any grade school special education room across the country, and you will see the same thing. Laminated schedules with photo icons either hang on the walls or are carried around on clipboards. 
     At 11 a.m. Kylie points to the icon showing a child eating. She moves the magnetic-backed picture from the left side of the schedule to the right as she takes out her Paw Patrol lunch bag. The lunch bag is kept in the inside pocket of her backpack. Nothing else goes in this pocket. The lunch bag is packed with the same thing every day: 8 carrot sticks and hummus, 4 whole black olives, and an almond butter sandwich with the crusts cut off. 

     Every day that Kylie is at school, this is her 11 a.m. routine. Kylie, like 1 in 68 U.S. children,  is “on the spectrum.”  Her parents began noticing differences between Kylie and her peers when she was four years old. After consulting with doctors and behavior specialists, her parents were given the official diagnosis of ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). 

     Kylie’s parents worked with a certified behavior specialist who helped them organize their home to accommodate  Kylie’s personality best. If you are one of the 68 U.S. homes like Kylie’s, here are some tips on how to support a child with autism.

5 ways to support your autistic child at home

  • Keep your household “rules” simple.
Depending on where your child falls on the spectrum, consider assigning your child household jobs the same as you would with other children. Choose the jobs carefully though. If your child with autism reacts when you ask him to take out the trash, it could be that the child struggles with the job because of the smells coming from the trash can or the noise of the trash container lids closing. 

Think of jobs that are the same each time the child does it. Maybe show your child how to clean the bathroom sinks with non-scented wipes. Perhaps you can teach your child to fold and put away bath towels or kitchen towels. Keep rules and jobs specific and straightforward.  Vagueness can confuse a child on the spectrum. 
  • Create consistent rules and expectations for your child.
Children with autism can have trouble understanding why the rules change from one environment to another. Maybe at home, you have always been fine having your child use the toilet with the bathroom door open. This is apparently not acceptable in a school setting. It may benefit your child to adapt your household rules to mimic those at school. 

Discuss rules and enforcement with your child’s special education teacher. Try to agree on a list of specific rules for your child that can overlap between home and school. Be consistent with the language you use to prompt behavior, and if appropriate, also use the same kinds of reinforcement for your child’s appropriate or inappropriate actions. Make sure everyone who works with your child knows these verbal prompts -- including the siblings and grandparents at home and paraprofessionals and classroom teachers at school. 

  • Keep rewards and consequences consistent.
Similar to the previous point, if a child on the spectrum is rewarded for an action at home and not at school, the child may be confused. If you are trying to encourage a child to wash her hands before eating a snack, and you give her a Skittle every time she does so while she is at home, she may be confused when she is not rewarded the same by this behavior at school. 

Again, this takes a great deal of communication and cooperation between the school personnel and parents, but working out these systems ultimately benefits the child and creates a happier home and school environment. 

  • Stick to a schedule. 
This is part of the consistency your child craves. Set up a plan with scheduled times for different activities, and make sure your child knows it. Consider even creating a laminated schedule kept at a central location in your home. Use photos of the child doing the activity to help the child understand what is expected of him during a given time. 

Set regular times for meals, school, chores, therapy, and bedtime. Don’t forget to schedule time for fun! During free time, let your child choose their own activity.

  • Provide an appropriate home environment for your child on the spectrum.
Of course, parents are experts at understanding their children’s triggers. With that knowledge, it’s essential to create an environment where your child feels safe. 

Adapt your home environment to his hypersensitivities or hyposensitivities. Pay attention to lighting. Does your child react negatively to bright lights or complete darkness? What about the scents in your home? Avoid overly scented personal products, room deodorizers, and candles. Also be aware of your home’s noise level. Encourage those in your home to speak in a quiet, even tone of voice. Be mindful of the sound from the TV, radio, video games, and appliances. 

Support begins with consistency

​    Whether your child has been diagnosed with ASD or your child has a classmate at school with ASD, it’s important to be educated about how to support him or her. 
     Cadily’s Magnetic Chore Chart is an excellent tool to help bring structure to children’s lives and keep them productive and motivated, but it is an especially great tool for a child with autism. Our chart can help your child understand the specific task she is being asked to do. The chart provides a task for your child to “check off” once that job is complete. Your child will also get a visual reminder of the reward they will earn after following directions.

Are you a special education teacher?  For information about ordering chore charts in bulk for your classroom,  contact us today.

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