12 Ways to Create An Autism-Friendly Environment For Kids October 21 2011
If you have a child who is autistic, or if you’re in charge of autistic children, you’ll need all the help you can get to createan autism-friendly environment for these kids. Kids with autism have special needs and require special handling. Here are 12 ways how you can create the perfect environment for autistic children in your home or school.
1. Autistic Children Are More Sensitive To External Stimuli
Autistic children have more sensitive senses than non-autistic ones. They will respond negatively to loud noises and bright light. Sensory overload may not always trigger a meltdown in your autistic charges, but it can certainly set the stage for one. To avoid sensory overload, keep the lights soft, avoid noisy implements, speak softly, and don’t have more than a few children in a room. Allow the children to wear ear plugs if needed.
2. Don’t Ever Nag An Autistic Child
It takes a little longer for the autistic child to process information, move from one task to another, change routines and so on. Be patient. Make your request and walk away, allowing the child to comply in their own time. Don’t repeat instructions, and don’t argue or debate with a child, as you will risk overloading the child’s senses.
3. Reinforce Negative Punishment With Positive Punishment
Some autistic children can be very unruly and it is important to set limits for their behavior which will help them develop properly. Mete out negative punishments if needed, but also let them know that they’re good kids and that you’re proud of them.
4. Don’t Be Critical Of The Child’s Work
Correcting an autistic child’s behavior can be very crushing to the child, as he or she perceives it as rejection. Be careful; if you find that a child is doing something wrongly, do it the right way when he or she is watching, without directly correcting them. Don’t be hasty, critical or judgmental with an autistic child.
5. Never Force The Autistic Child To ‘Fit In’
Value the autistic child’s unique strengths and accommodate their weaknesses, but don’t force them to fit in to the accepted tenets of normal life. Would you force a person in a wheelchair to climb stairs? Autistic children have certain limitations and you must be respectful of those.
6. There’s No One-Size-Fits-All Approach
Each autistic child is different, so you’ll have to adapt your environment to suit your particular child or children. The best way to do this will be to pay close attention to your particular child and notice signs of stress. Remove everything that triggers stress; it could be a red colored ball, or it could be the lights, or it could be sound, it could be anything specific to your child. Pay attention.
7. Set Up Autistic-Friendly Zones In Your House
Set up different zones in your home for different activities, such as the eating zone. Each zone, especially the eating zone, must be free of distraction, clutter and unnecessary noise. Autistic children cannot take in too many things at a time so if the meal table has anything on it other than a plate, a spoon and a fork, they can refuse to eat or throw a tantrum.
8. Set Up A Quiet Time-Out Zone
A small nook in a corner of your home that’s quiet, cozy and private should be assigned as your autistic child’s ‘quiet zone’. Here is where the child can recharge his or her batteries and recover from tantrums. You can keep a few pillows or toys here, depending on your child’s color tolerance, but avoid anything loud.
9. Provide A Visual Activity Schedule
It’s difficult for autistic children to connect events as you describe them verbally. Use pictures instead; a picture of your car with the two of you, and then one of the cleaners, the grocers and the bank will explain the day’s schedule. Do the same for play schedule – first the bubbles, then the ball game and then the frisbee, and then a picture of mealtime, to indicate playtime is over.
10. Use Pictures As Reminders
If you want your autistic child to remember to bring back all the contents of their backpacks, be sure to put a laminated picture-list of backpack objects in their pocket, instead of a written list.
11. Use Baskets To Help You Coordinate
If you want your child to pack his backpack, or play a game alone, put all the relevant things into a basket. Don’t let the things be lying around, mixing with the background.
12. Use Timeout Cards
Verbalizing needs is a very difficult area for autistics. To help them with this, laminate picture cards indicating various activities. Each time the child wants to do something like take a bio break, he can pick up the card and show you, instead of trying to verbalize his need.