Learning and organizational tips for kids with autism.

Dear Mrs. James,

My son has autism and we are having trouble just making it through the day. I was wondering if you have any ideas or tips on how we can organize our schedule. I don't know how much experience you have with autistic children but they need things to be tweaked a little to make things work. Unfortunately for me, I'm not the most organized or most creative person in the world so I keep hitting a wall. Please help if you can.

Sincerely,
Denise Shepherd

Hi Denise,

Thanks for writing in! I have a great idea for you. This is something the two of you can do together. I created it for a little boy during my nanny days and it worked wonders!

Go online and print off some pictures of eating, homework, sports, television, bedtime, brushing teeth, etc. Print off everything that he does on a daily basis and hang them on the fridge (or in another visible area) in chronological order. To take it a step further, write the time on each picture that he completes each task. For example, his breakfast picture could say 7 a.m. 7:15 a.m. He will probably LOVE this activity, as most children with autism take consistent schedules very seriously.

It has been my experience that children with autism like rules, organization and structure. They tend to like it so much that sometimes when the schedule is off, it literally destroys their day. Empower your son by giving him the tools he needs to be successful! After a while, you may notice him completing the schedule without you even having to say anything! Give this a try and see how everything goes.

Keep up the good work!

Love,
Mrs. James

Dear Mrs. James,

Do you know of any preschool level learning activities I can do with my son? He's recently been diagnosed with autism although I have suspected it for a long time. I am looking for activities I can do at home with him and not rely on his teachers to do so.

Thanks,
Rita R.

Hello Rita!

I like your question! But I double, extra, quadruple like that you asked about LEARNING activities rather than just fun activities! You're thinking like I like folks to think!

Here are a couple of learning activities that are also fun! I love The Touch & Guess Game. Simply place an object in a cloth bag or in a box with a hole big enough that he can reach inside and feel the object, but not see it. Let him feel the item with his hand and guess what it is. Once he guesses, switch the item. With every incorrect guess, give a clue. I highly recommend using items with many different textures such as a tennis ball, a marble, a golf ball, sandpaper, a tissue, and other rough, smooth, fuzzy (etc.) objects. Encourage him to describe what he is feeling. What does it feel like? What could you do with this kind of item? What could it be? Encourage him to talk it out!

I am also very fond of the If It Were Me Game. This game can be VERY effective for building conversational skills, which are limited in some autistic children. In it, you begin the game "if it were me who found a puppy, I would..." or "if it were me who got lost in the mall, I would..." and let your child finish the sentence. It also provides you with a very good opportunity to understand what your child is thinking and suggest safe responses for serious events like getting lost, crossing the street and other safety issues. Try these and see how it goes! Email me if you need more activities, but this should be a great start! Until then...

Keep up the good work,

Love,
Mrs. James