Monday, 20 April 2015

Autism awareness - Back in the routine - Morning

So the kids are back at school and out come the visuals and back into the routine we go.  Our mornings need to be predictable and ordered.  This helps our ASD child to cope with what is happening, as he needs prediction in an already confusing world.  We do not run everything by the clock but we do it in order, so come the holidays and weekend we can still follow the order but we can do it at a relaxed pace.  We did not instinctively know we needed to do this, we have learnt this through trial and error and we honed our skills from doing the Early Bird Plus course.  This is a great course (run by the National Autistic Society for children aged 4-8years old) which has helped us learn so much about ASD (as parents) but you also attend it alongside your school.  We attended it with B's HLSA.  We both learned and worked together to put strategies in place.  If you get the chance to attend this course - please take it :)
Back to the routine, before the course and order, I found I was always yelling and getting stressed that no one would get ready and they were easily distracted and frustrated with one another (probably because they began the day with their mother cross).  I found we were late to playschool or groups and by the time we got there, we were already quite worn out.  Something needed to change.  I was watching Supernanny (We did not get B's diagnosis until he was 7, until then I watched, read and attended every parenting thing as his behaviour was horrendous and I had assumed I was just the worst parent ever and needed to learn better techniques) and the family were having the same problem and she devised a 'get set go' board.  I quickly implemented it and it worked great for us.  It was a board with 2 cars on a race track that stopped at each task ie wash face, brush teeth, get dressed etc and it was a race to the end.  I had to prep everything like clothes on the peg and have everything out ready for them to follow the routine.  I had to teach them to get dressed etc they did not learn this by instinct, like some children do.  The boys were at preschool age and really took to it - I think they also liked the competition.  Anytime they looked lost - I would not yell but refer them to the board.  I needed them to learn some independent skills as I would be trying to get myself and the baby ready. 
As time passed the board got a little worn and it changed to a 'visual'.  A visual is a prompt to remind your child what comes next.  We learnt on the course that ASD children are visual learners and that they respond far better to visual input then verbal - so my previous yelling really was a waste of time and energy.  My children have picked up reading quite easily, so I used photographs and words of the tasks needed and ordered them.  Most libraries offer a communication in print program that you can use for free which can help you tailor a visual to your child's needs, if you do not like to use photographs.  I did laminate these sheets, as now they understood what was needed, it does not mean they want to do it.  You can't get overly precious about the visuals, as they can get screwed up and thrown in the bin.  That's why I like using photographs and have my own laminator so I can just print another copy off when needed and the laminator just helps to preserve their life a little longer.  Don't be put off from using them if they are thrown or destroyed, it shows they are understanding what is happening but now they need a motivator to help them complete the task.  A motivator is a reward.    They need a motivator as they have absolutely no interest in completing the task.  I am the one who wants the task completed so I need to make it appealing.  They would quite happily turn up everywhere naked and dirty (at this age) remember they think differently to the typical person/child and do not see the need to comply with typical social unwritten rules.
My son also has no understanding of hierarchy, so typical people understand that you should do as I say as I am an adult and you are a child, this means nothing to my son.  I have tried to teach him this but as far as he is concerned we are all the same and it doesn't matter how old, who you are or what title you hold - he does not get why that means he has to do as you want and not please himself.  This jars with a lot of parenting methods.  I cannot strictly teach him to obey and I cannot give him the freedom of lots of choices either, as he finds this difficult to process and overwhelming.  Infact he prefers not to have a choice.  Which is why it can feel so frustrating.  The course helped me to parent in a way that is effective to my son and it works well with the whole family.  Having visuals helped to take away some of my sons frustrations that were aimed at me (as i wanted him to do things he did not) and moved them to the visual (which cannot argue back, get emotional or too many choices).  The visual also helps takes away my talking it through - which is just an extra layer for him to process, which can become overwhelming. 
As they have gotten older, they need less detail in the prompts ie now I can just use the visual - a written word of bathroom - wash and teeth.  They  know it means they need to go to the bathroom for a face/hands wash, dry themselves and to brush their teeth.  He now knows this and does not need it laid out step by step. so therefore we no longer need a bathroom visual. It has taken time to get there but consistent routine has worked.  We also use visual prompts to support other parts of the routine, to help keep the visuals as simple and easy to follow as possible.  We have an upstairs visual, a downstairs visual but its all part of the same routine.  The visuals can be used for all autistic children whether they are higher functioning or not so, as they are tailored to them.  For our family, the children are motivated by food so all tasks have to be done first before they get breakfast (this is the motivator/reward).  If you find this does not work, we use the 'first' and 'then' method.  'First' being follow the routine (which is not to change) and 'then' being the motivating reward which can change to whatever it needs to be, to get 'First' completed. 

A lot of work has gone into this but its worth it.  ASD children don't like change but it was worth persevering to implement a routine which works and serves us all.  Typical families probably just get ready, they probably have an order or routine without having to meticulously think it through or perhaps they just yell and it gets the job done but we have to plan it out and then we have to follow it or set ourselves up for a bad day as he will be out of sorts.

This is how are mornings work - all the children follow the routine;

Bathroom - wash and teeth
Get Dressed
PJs on bed
Comb hair
Make bed
Room tidy

Once this part is finished they can go downstairs to complete part 2 of the routine;

Family service task (each child has a different task)
Shoes on
Breakfast (together at the table when we are all ready)
Bible time and prayers

B's taxi shortly arrives and the others have about 10 mins till its time to go to school.  In case you are wondering about lunches and kit/school bags these are done the day before as part of the afterschool routine and are kept by the front door. Our actual visuals are word docs so it would not allow me to insert them, so have written them out instead.

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