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Children with autism are very resistant to change. Until recently it was considered that they had to live under rigorous and strict routines to improve your quality of life.
Little by little, the intervention models are changing and, above all, reality prevails. Life is change and you have to know how to prepare the child with autism for these changes, so that you know how to deal with them naturally.
Life is full of routines, getting up, having breakfast, brushing teeth, going out of the house, going to school, eating, having a snack, having dinner, bathing, going to bed, etc, ... but at the same time there are also many changes, whether planned or unforeseen .
We explain how to introduce changes in the routines of children with autism.
In general, children with autism unexpected changes They tend to be annoying and cause anxiety in unexpected situations. The loss of predictability of what will happen next often coincides with a bad response. The breaking of known routines added to the inflexibility of the child generates negative responses.
We must not forget that the child does not get angry to annoy us, the child will always have tantrums for a reason, even to get our attention or as a blackmail system. It should not be forgotten that because the child has autism he stops being a child and all children have tantrums and the child with autism is no exception.
Pedro comes and goes to her house every day on the school route, but one day her father goes to pick her up at school because he has a medical appointment.
This incident, a priori so common, can lead to a big tantrum. The doctor's appointment on that specific day requires being very punctual, a fact that will also make us lose our nerves and leave school late, and with a negative emotional charge.
We can extend this problem to countless situations. Clothes, meal times, the food itself, a trip, going out to dinner, going to the supermarket, or any of the everyday situations that can vary unpredictably. We need to work so that the child understands that changes are normal and even fun.
Children with autism usually have small obsessions or hobbies that, added to their inflexibilityThey can cause a small unexpected change in routine to take us to an extreme situation.
We will employ two basic techniques. One is the anticipation of what is going to happen. Anticipation prepares the child for future action reduces the anxiety that an unexpected change may produce. The other is introduce progressive changes in routines. These changes can be made gradually, gradually introducing new changes in the routine, so that you end up receiving the change as one more routine. Flexibility and the elimination of small obsessions are worked on.
Anticipation and participation:
Depending on the child and his abilities, we will use one system or another to anticipate actions. Visual agendas will be very helpful.
Before each change that we want to include in the routine, we will prepare the agenda to notify the child of what is going to happen next.
We can, for example, include an unscheduled visit to the supermarket. We anticipate action and support it visually and verbally. It is also important to establish small prizes or reinforcers. This way we can positively encourage the child's action. If the child participates in the purchase, they will feel a greater attachment to the action itself and it will be easier for us to introduce this new element.
At this point we will have carried out the following actions:
- Active participation in the task and the child's choice of some of the foods to buy. We can make the child choose one and we another.
- Understanding on the part of the child that the action of the purchase entails a small change that is associated with a nice situation. Hence the importance of positive reinforcement in accepting change.
- The child will also accept the anticipation of actions that get out of the strict routine.
Depending on each child, this type of exercise may cost very little, or we will have to arm ourselves with patience. No two children are the same. In turn, the older the child is and the longer he has followed a routine, the more it will cost us to introduce these changes.
Introduce this type of gradual changes It will allow us that in the long term the child is much more flexible when it comes to an unforeseen change.
Work on flexibility It is an important point and it will help us so that the changes that the child is going to face in his life are not so traumatic. There are many situations that will make routines break and preparing the child to face unexpected situations will avoid states of anxiety.
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