Morning superstars, yes that’s what we are!
Take it from me, a mother of two wonderful autistic girls, when I say routines and schedules are a huge part of how successful our days are. Whether you’re a parent of the 1-in-68 children diagnosed with ASD or a parent who manages to breeze through their usual morning regimens with one hand tied behind your back, this is for you. We are all a part of a community of supporters, encouragers, and more importantly a group of people that knows a thing or two about morning routines. Here is just one of the many ways my family and I have managed to become morning warriors!
It’s no surprise that children with ASD need structure and consistency. “Autistic children need a regular and consistent routine so they know what to expect and when to expect it. People with autism naturally learn and repeat routines, therefore completion of the routine is in itself reinforcing. Routine provides certainty in overwhelming and ambiguous situations” (cesa7.org). There are plenty of rewarding benefits for both the child and parent(s) when everyone is working towards a common goal-getting out of the house on time. The key is finding a routine and creating a schedule that fits your family’s lifestyle.
We use CommunicoTool 2 to schedule our routines by utilizing the SEQUENCE module. By we, I mean Sara age 5, Maia age 3, and myself. Sara is almost non-verbal and has been diagnosed as severe on the ASD. She understands a lot, but we need to talk to her in short sentences or we loose her, she currently attends TK at Malcolm X in Berkeley, CA. Maia, on the other hand, has some speech delays, but talks and understands everything. She is also on the ASD, but is highly functional and currently in pre-school. So you can only imagine how hectic our mornings are, but we’ve managed to identify what works for us by using CommunicoTool 2. We found that technology can be used as a learning tool and a positive distraction when it comes to children with ASD.
CommunicoTool 2 is a mid-tech level tablet application that includes a complete suite of modules to help children with communication and/or developmental challenges. SEQUENCE is one of the 6 modules that I frequently use with my 5 year old. As Sara is a visual learner, the use of pictures and pictograms are especially helpful to learn routines. She’s also been able to learn new words, become more independent, and, most importantly, less anxious through the help of this module.
It used to be a painful process to get Sara dressed in the mornings. Not only would it take a painstaking amount of time, but she also needed a lot of prompting and patience on my part. A few months ago, we created a routine using the Sequence module hoping she would master it. Well, she did and brilliantly at that!! Now, Sara can get ready within 5 minutes. She picks her own clothes out (she likes to have options, so she empties a drawer every morning?). She then starts with her underclothes, and finishes with her shoes all by herself.
A great feature the Sequence module includes its ability to create a sequence using pictograms available on the app or you can choose to upload your own personal photos. Sara prefers the latter as it is always easier to learn by seeing things that are familiar. So we took pictures of Sara’s favorite clothes, put them in an order, and created the sequence. The app’s personalization allows Sara to learn faster and better comprehend her morning routine. It is truly a beautiful thing to see.
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