With COVID accompanying us into 2021, parents and children with ASD may feel more overwhelmed than ever before. Thankfully, there are four autism therapy strategies to use at home that will help comfort your child – as well as create a beautiful space for bonding and special memories.
The Key in Autism Therapy: Routine
A consistent routine gives children with ASD the predictability they need, especially during this unpredictable pandemic. Work with your child in creating a routine they find comfortable. Then turn this into a visual schedule, using images for each activity. This makes it easy for your child to see what comes next.
Part of this schedule is monitoring screen time. Too much screen time beyond remote learning and socially connecting can result in increased irritability, sleep problems, and hyperactivity. Clearly mark screen time on the schedule, which will help with the transition off the screen.
When transitioning to the next activity, audio cues can greatly help as a part of ABA therapy at home. Set a timer that plays music or a soothing sound when it’s time to transition.
An Environment of Calm
Creating a calm home environment is important for kids with ASD and parents too. This is a perfect time to analyze your home about what’s working and what’s too distracting or stimulating.
Use this checklist for easy, affordable, and quick updates that will help your child feel calm at home.
- Make a safe haven. A private, clutter-free place to retreat can soothe your child when emotions or the environment is overwhelming. Design the space together, asking your child what colors to use. Consider solid colors instead of patterns, which can be too stimulating. Green is found to be restful and light blue helps with concentrating. Ask your child what type of light and air flow would be most relaxing. Fluorescent lights can be too intense for children with ASD, so choose lighting that’s comforting and calming.
- Make an outdoor sanctuary. A child can practice independence outdoors, especially if you have a patio or enclosed porch. Consider adding a swing or hammock as a soothing activity that will help your child transition outside.
- Make a soothing sound. If the house’s soundscape is causing sensory overload, consider adding a white noise machine. Noise canceling headphones are another option as well for blocking out distracting noises.
Practicing Mindfulness for Parents and Children with ASD
Mindfulness is taking life one moment at a time, especially helpful given today’s uncertainties. Incorporated into ABA therapy’s “Acceptance and Commitment Theory” (ACT), mindfulness with self-acceptance develops a child’s psychological flexibility (and parents too!).
For children with ASD, mindfulness has been shown in studies to help on many levels:
- Central coherence: Shifting between a wide and narrow perspective helps develop an understanding that experiences are simply passing events. This can help children to not obsess on details.
- Executive functioning: When children practice controlling the focus of attention, they are able to better respond with awareness, instead of automatic impulses.
- Enhanced social interaction and communication: Awareness of the present helps focus on the social interaction, rather than environmental or internal distractions. By becoming aware of their own feelings in the present moment, it can help children understand other people’s emotions and the impact of their behavior on others.
Of course, parents greatly benefit from mindfulness too! This practice helps parents to accept each moment with their children, observing them in a nonjudgmental way that understands their child’s perspectives. Parents who themselves practice mindfulness respond more calmly. Studies show that mindfulness in ABA therapy improves the quality of life for the entire family, as well as decreases stress for parents.
Practice Makes Perfect
All this time at home is an ample opportunity to practice mindfulness and deep breathing, as well as explore activities together and practice independence in daily skills, such as cooking and washing the dishes together. Have you been wanting to explore ceramics or painting? What about baking bread? Yoga? Think about sensorially calm activities you both would enjoy. This is a perfect time to practice these skills as part of ABA therapy at home. Enjoy the silver lining!