Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Importance of Routine with Autism

Today was a busy day. We awoke to find out furnace had sadly finally croaked. Nothing that a good service repair man couldn't fix, however, waking up with a house that is only 53 degrees is not fun. So while it may not have been ideal, I have to admit the rest of the day went on rather uneventfully. I picked up Beka early from preschool and finished the last of the shoe shopping for those who needed new shoes with some of our tax money. Thankfully this trip didn't cost us over $500 (we invest in higher end shoes that last longer so we don't have to purchase them as often. It helps a lot on the shoe bill), we had leftovers for lunch, and this afternoon Chris and I took the van to Wal-Mart for new tires, an oil change and an inspection to get ready for our move and long journey to Washington. This evening was lovely and just as boring with spaghetti made for supper and then I ran to Mom & Bud's to check on the mail for them.

Here is the interesting part, while I ran to check on the house for my folks, Elizabeth and Beka took it upon themselves with only a little chat from me before I left. They finished their ice cream, put their bowls in the sink for washing then proceeded upstairs where they took their bath and Lizzie made sure to wash her own hair and Rebekah's hair too and their bodies. After getting into clean jammies, they then brushed their teeth and put themselves to bed. While this may not seem terribly remarkable, it is in the sense that Chris was so busy trying to get the new Switched on Schoolhouse software to work that he completely zoned out and didn't realize they'd done any of these things until I walked in the house.

I think routines are important. Not all routines, for example: eating a different cereal or making something different than what you have on your menu is a good thing - because sometimes changing things up keeps it lively. But when it comes to the girls and especially Elizabeth I have found that routines are necessary.

For Sarah even, she likes knowing that when she walks in from school I will be waiting for her and Elizabeth. Riding the bus used to be an important part of the routine for Elizabeth. However, as she has begun to flourish, I think it is now possible that we may not need the bus. Washington will be a great way to establish if she still needs the bus. Another part of her routine that is important to Elizabeth as well as her classmates is the routine that comes from standardized dress codes. Each child may wear tan or navy blue pants along with a navy blue, white, or orange shirt. The only exception to this rule is Picture Day and Fridays when the children may then wear dark denim blue jeans. Sarah hated the dress code because she hadn't gone to schools that hard standardized dress before, but we found that allowing her to wear funky socks and by funny sneakers allowed her to express her individuality while still making sure she complied with the rules.

When you have a child with Autism or even an Autism Spectrum Disorder routine becomes just as necessary to your life as monitoring foods (keeping sugars low and watching for red and green food dyes for us - they triggered aggression in Elizabeth). These routines are important because they allow your child to understand what comes next. When that routine is changed too much, then it can often lead to a meltdown. There are also ways to let your autistic child know what is expected of them - pictures posted on the wall of teeth brushing, turning off the light, putting on jammies, etc. . . and putting them in a specific order will help a lot. This pictures also work as a way for the child to talk to you. Rebekah is a peer model in a classroom that has mostly non-verbal children. She and another child show and model for the students appropriate (and sometimes inappropriate) behavior. They use books with pictures in them so the children can tell them if they want a drink, or need to use the restroom, of if they need something - this is a helpful tool for them and the teachers and helps the teachers understand what the child needs. I would have loved to have known about those books when Elizabeth had minimal verbal skills.
By the way the pictures may also be used to teach your child how to do his/her own laundry (at an older age of course), how to dress themselves, brush their own teeth, wash dishes. All of those things are needed to survive in the world today.

I encourage those with Autistic children to please research - there are many resources and tools to use for your autistic child. The more we learn the more you can reach out to your child. No longer does having an Autistic child necessarily mean you must institutionalize them (this is not always the case for every autistic child), many autistic children are very intelligent and the key if figuring out how to unlock the knowledge their heads and help them come into the world we live in today while keeping their minds intact. There are a lot of excellent special needs teams in the U.S. So please don't give up hope. We are still learning so much about this disability and let me encourage you to not see the diagnosis but to see the child within.

I hope you all have a good week. I should be getting a new laptop soon and so I will be able to resume a daily blog then.

Love in Christ,
Maureen