Kids With Autism
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4 Simple Tips for Helping Organize Your Autistic Kid’s Toys, Schedules and Schoolwork
by Heidi DeCoux [Wednesday, March 25th, 2009]
Organized children are typically successful children. This is especially true for autistic children. Learning organization skills helps kids develop their focus, concentration and motor skills.
Getting and keeping children on the autism spectrum organized can be more challenging because they are easily distracted, require strong visual and audio cues and often times have limited motor skills.
Autistic children tend to be visual learners, which means they generally learn and perform better when provided with visual instructions and prompts. These are some tips on how you can help your child be organized, develop skills and make smooth transitions between activities using visual instructions and prompts.
These four tips may need to be adjusted depending on your child’s age and abilities. Simply use them as a reference guide.
- Create a simple bin system for your child’s toys, crafts and school supplies. Separate the types of toys, crafts and supplies into individual bins. Take photographs of each type of toy or supply contained within and tape the photograph to the front of each corresponding bin.
For example: Place a photograph of Lego’s to your child’s bin that contains Lego’s. Do the same with markers, plush toys, crayons, and so on. Even if the bins are clear (transparent), it will be easier for your child to be organized if s/he has a visual cue as to where their toys or supplies belong. Choose bins with easy to remove lids or no lids.
- Display your kid’s toys, supplies and clothing. It is easier for all children, especially autistic children, to stay organized and function if they can see their belongings. Drawers do not usually work well for children on the autism spectrum. If you must use drawers, tape a photograph on the front of each drawer that corresponds to what is kept in the drawer. If possible do not combine items into one drawer. Hang as many of their clothes as possible or fold them and place them on shelves, preferably in cubbies. Place jeans in one cubby, sweaters in another and so on. Socks, underwear and pajamas are best placed in transparent bins with photographs taped to the front.
- Set up daily routines and stick to them as much as you can. Creating and following regular daily routines can make transitioning from one activity to another less upsetting for your child. Children on the autism spectrum often thrive when they have daily routines and typically react poorly to changes in routines. Once a solid routine is in place, small changes can be introduced slowly. Introducing small changes can actually help your child develop coping strategies to deal with transitions. It is best to introduce changes in routines in very small steps. Gradually, your child will be able to use strategies like social stories and self talk to work through the anxiety they experience when making transitions.
An easy organizing routine – Give your child a 10-minute heads-up before each meal and then ask them to set an egg timer for 10 minutes. Teach them that when the timer goes off, they are to collect up all of their toys, crafts and supplies and place them in the appropriate bins.
This little daily activity establishes a routine, lets your child know what to expect, gives them a 10-minute lead-time and then provides them a distinct audio clue when it’s time to pick up and get organized. It is important to ask your children to set the egg timer, not you. It gets them more involved in the process and they will be more likely to follow through.
A little addition to this routine – When the egg timer goes off and it’s time to pick up and get organized, you could play a special song that your child will soon recognize as the “pick up and get organized” song. This can make it fun, playful and soothing for them. It also helps keep them on task and get the work done faster.
- Take your child’s schedule and make it a picture schedule. Picture schedules work best for kids on the autistic spectrum. Set up the picture schedule so that when your child is finished with the task or activity they can move that corresponding picture to the all done side of their schedule. Basically you are creating an interactive picture schedule that your child can “control.” Their picture schedule could also be organized by first, next, and last. This gives them a specific order of the tasks and they can move the picture to the “completed” side.
To help your child get and stay organized, use visual aids and keep it simple. All four of these tips are only to be used as guidelines and ideas. Consider modifying and adjusting these ideas as you see fit based on your child’s needs, abilities and age. Each child on the autistic spectrum reacts a little differently, has different needs and is functioning at various levels.
Professional Organizer, Heidi DeCoux, specializes in Home Office Organizing.
Shelly's Comments: I've known many people who have kids with autism. I've seen their struggles and it inspired me to try to find helpful information that may be of benefit to them.
If you know of any other information that will be beneficial to families that have kids with autism, please contact me. Thank you!
If you find that you need additional help for kids with autism, check out the www.autism-society.org.
Additional help for kids with autism may be found at the Mayo Clinic’s signs of autism information.
If you have kids with autism, don't forget to celebrate April because:
April is Autism Awareness Month
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