Friday, 24 April 2015

Autism Awareness - Routines and Reward Charts

So far this week the boys and me have adjusted getting back into the routine of school.  It has been tiring, picking them up and taking them to all their various clubs, helping them to remember kit bags etc as well as doing any home work, prepping dinner... but we've made it through :)
When the boys come in from school, they all go through the 'after school checklist'.  This visual helps them to get organised for the next day.
  • All letters/topic pages to mum (B's school tends to email or pass on to his escort as he is particular about what will and won't go in his book bag.  I put this info by my diary to check through and update when a get a second)
  • Put book bags away
  • Empty kit bag (put contents in the wash bin or if wearing kit, get the uniform and school shoes out and away)
  • Get the next kit bag out if needed (I fill the kit bags when I do the ironing and try to remind them of any activities for the following day)
  • Empty, clean and refill lunchbox (currently they are all hot dinners but there are some odd days where they choose packed instead)
  • Get changed and hang up uniform (currently trying to get the older ones to smell/look to see if their uniform is dirty)
  • Snack time
I have 4 children in 3 schools with different pick up times or clubs and each school does things slightly differently, so not all these points refer to every child.  Basically, larger families need to be organised! Even with this in place we can still forget kits/groups etc...
My youngest has only just started school so I need to support a lot of the points on the checklist but it will be worth it, as in time it will become automatic, like it has for his brothers.  It is easier to train the younger one, as he has his older brothers to look to for examples, so for me, it has been worth the work with the older ones.  Once the routine is completed, the boys are allowed 30mins computer time each which we fit in-between collecting any other children from clubs/dinner/reading practise and OT exercises. I do not use a routine for all of these tasks, as each day is different so we could not implement it as 'we do this every day' (our definition of routine) but we do have a visual schedule, so everyone knows what is happening for each school day.  We have one more routine which is the bedtime routine. 
We put the younger 2 to bed together and then the older 2 go to bed a little later (normally the younger 2 are asleep by then).  B sleeps in his own room and needs this space in order to go to sleep.  N has difficulty going off to sleep so will often read into the night.  We do not shower/bath the children every night but schedule it in.  Our eldest 2 have sensory impairments so shower/bath times can be really difficult - I will post about sensory issues another time.  The routine is mainly to get them to be cleaned, put dirty clothes in the wash, changed into PJs and into bed.  We read stories to the younger ones but the older ones like to read their own books to themselves.  We also do prayers and get them to think about things they are thankful for from the day.  Routines are an important part of ASD child's life.  It helps them to have predictability and makes them feel secure.  The routines can teach them and train them in the way we wish them to follow.  Personally I get fed up of routine, I like to just do things as and when, to not have my life all planned out but for now, this is how it has to be.
In order to help support the routines and to get everything done, we also use a reward chart.  Each child has 3 things to work on, which if managed earns them a point each, over the school week.  They can then spend or bank their points depending on what they wish at the end of each week.  Each child can earn up to 15 points a week.  What they work on, is normally what is causing me the most stress :) I use my emotions/stress level as an indicator as to what skills they need to work on next.  For example, we all have dinner together and we move onto pudding once everyone has finished their dinner.  My youngest would take forever to eat his dinner, which would upset his brothers. So rather than change the rule and break up our family together time (every family is different but to me it is a priority that we eat together as a family - it helps teach social skills and its a chance to catch up with everyone after a busy day) he can now earn a point if he eats his dinner in a timely manner (which is about a max. of 5 mins after everyone else has finished).   If he doesn't do it, we do not make a big fuss that he hasn't achieved it but try to use it more as an encouragement to eat his dinner.  We never take points away as a punishment, once earned they have been earned and we will not take that achievement away.  It is separate from the discipline process.  In the past I used reward charts with little success, I think that the failure was me not understanding how to use them correctly, expecting miracles from them  or pitching it at a level they did not properly comprehend - just because a child is verbal does not mean they have full understanding which also applies vice versa.  This is what their points can get them...
10 points = sweets/chocolate
15 points = 30mins extra computer time
30 points = pack of pokemon cards/magazine
45 points = a special activity with mum/dad or small toy
60 points = Treat outing ie costas, pudding
The reward charts work really well with my children.  I can adapt the tasks as and when I need to, as they are all really familiar with the process.  When we first implemented the routines and reward charts, it was hard.  We had to persevere and have faith that this would be a better way in teaching and training our children.  It paid off and they did quickly adapt as they wanted the rewards (AKA the motivator).  All the tasks are achievable for them and they have at least 1 task which is really easy for them to attain, so even on the bad days they can still be encouraged.  Reward charts can be tailored towards your child and your child may well need a reward at the end of the day and cannot bank it for a long term goal.  This is fine, they are all different and have different needs.  The main point of the reward chart/routine is that it is serving the family well, not us slaves to it. 
The most popular choice for rewards in our house, is the extra computer time!

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