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Simple Home Strategies for Parents


This article was contributed by Amy Hobbs, Training Coordinator for the Autism Society of North Carolina.

Are you looking for a way to make your evenings more peaceful? We have a few strategies you can try to keep your child with autism on track with homework and daily tasks – which should make the whole family’s time at home better.

Create a consistent evening schedule to help your child know what will happen and the order in which it will happen throughout the week. Scheduling homework or chores before a choice or favorite activity will help keep your child motivated to complete less desirable activities. After a full day at school, this consistency of doing the same thing at roughly the same time will promote a relaxed atmosphere for your child.

Practice routines that show your child there is a place for everything, and teach him to put everything in its place. For example, show him when taking off dirty clothes to immediately put them in the hamper before getting in the bath. When your child finishes eating, have him put his dishes in the sink or dishwasher. Create a routine around homework in which your child has a quiet place and a clear expectation for how much to do. When he is finished, be sure that the homework is placed in a special “homework” folder so that it doesn’t get lost. Follow up homework time with the choice of a favorite activity.

Label drawers, bins, and cabinets to help your child remember what goes where. Depending on what your child understands, you can label with picture icons, photos, or written words.

Visual reminders by the door can help your child remember to put on shoes, a coat, and a hat before going outside. Make sure to leave those items near the door.

Let you child know how long an activity will last by showing her on a timer, clock, watch, or other device before you begin. Set the timer to mark when the activity is over, and let her know what will be happening next. Having a clear understanding of time can help alleviate anxiety and stress in children with autism.

Regular movement and exercise can help improve mood and attention as well as reduce anxiety. Most children with autism have lots of energy, and opportunities for physical activity will give them a productive way to expend some of it. Whether with a walk around the neighborhood, going for a bike ride, playing basketball, swimming, or climbing at the park, try to incorporate time for exercise every day. If it’s too cold for outdoor activities, try bouncing on an exercise ball, jumping on a trampoline, or following an exercise routine from a video or YouTube.

Interact consistently with your child. Be clear about what is okay and what is not okay for your child to do. Focus on showing and telling him what you want him to do rather than what you don’t. Praise and reward him when he does what you want him to do. This might seem simple, but it is easy to forget that your child might have difficulty problem-solving what to do instead of the undesirable behavior unless you show them.

Use visual supports as needed. Sometimes parents are afraid that if they use visual supports such as photos, icons, or written text, their child will refuse to talk or will become dependent on the visual cue. Actually, pictures or written words can help your child with autism remember what to say or what to ask for and can also aid in her independence. If your child has limited language, then teaching her to give you a photo of what she wants teaches the act of communication exchange. (She gives you the photo, then you give her the toy.) This often helps language to flow more easily. In addition, showing a photo or an icon of what you want your child to do often helps increase her understanding and therefore independence in completing the request.

If you find that any of the following are true for you at home, then I would encourage you to introduce some visual supports.

  • You have to repeat yourself over and over again.
  • Your child doesn’t follow your directions.
  • Your child walks away or just stands there when verbally directed.
  • Your child has tantrums.
  • You are feeling frustrated with your child.
  • You sense that your child is frustrated.
  • Your child isn’t able to ask for what she wants.

Visual supports help to:

  • Clarify directions or instructions
  • Motivate your child
  • Help with transitions
  • Clarify what will happen when and for how long
  • Help your child ask for what she wants

Last but certainly not least, remember to have fun with your child! Make a list of his favorite things and plan fun activities around his interests. These don’t have to be expensive, complicated, or long. Here are a few ideas for younger children.

  • Bubbles: Most kids love bubbles, and this is a great way to encourage communication by waiting for your child to look at you, gesture, or ask for more bubbles.
  • Hide and seek inside the house: You might want to limit this activity to two or three rooms. If your child has trouble finding you, hide somewhere obvious, such as on the couch with a pillow over your face. Be creative, and remember the idea is to have fun.
  • Peek-a-boo: Young kids especially love this game, and it encourages social interaction.
  • Make play dough: 2 cups plain flour, 1 cup salt, ½-1 cup cold water, 1 T oil, and 2 drops of food coloring, if desired. Combine flour, salt, water, food coloring and oil. Mix and knead until well formed.
  • Beads or Beans: Fill a large plastic tub with sensory beads or dried beans from the grocery store. Place small toys throughout and have the child place her hands in the box to pull out desired objects.
  • Dance party: Put on your favorite music and have an impromptu dance party!
  • Puppet show: Make sock puppets or use your child’s favorite dolls or characters to act out a theme. You can model social interactions through your role play.

Amy Hobbs can be reached at ahobbs@autismsociety-nc.org or 828-236-1547, ext. 1501.


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