Schedules, social stories, visuals make our life with autism easy, er, easier

Morning, afternoon, and evening routines for all three kids

When it come to successful family life, we find that preparation is key.

Preparation means discussing the who, what, when, where, why, how of the event ahead of time.

I find for us preparation has three components: inspiration, perspiration, and the the actual preparation. One time we had a family gathering at a local restaurant. I wondered how I was going to prepare my sons.

Inspiration: write a social story! (This is how it starts– I have to think of the idea or be inspired to do something.)

Perspiration: actually writing the story.  I wrote a social story using Boardmaker, detailing why we were getting together, who was going to be there, and defined our expectations.

Preparation: having everyone read the story. Over and over and over.

Of course, with our family life sometimes I forget or don’t have time to prepare.  Now that I think of it, on this occasion we prepared  on the fly, and the kids read it on the way to Red Robin. It worked, though!

Here is a run down of some other ways we prepare:

  • Schedules—doing evening calendar checks so we know what we need for the next day, or simply following a routine so that we get out of the house on time.

    Morning schedule written by daughter

  • Social stories— how to behave at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, how to ask for a break, and why chores are necessary.
  • Visuals–when we go on vacation, my husband and I do our best to print out a picture of the place where we will stay, places wewill go, and describe things we will do.
  • More visuals–We’ve printed out maps when we are on driving trips, with the routes highlighted. The kids like checking off the towns that we are going through.
  • Chores–The kids also pack their own things, whether it is a back pack, suit case, or swimming pool bag, so they are mentally preparing before we leave.  (I double check, of course… their “necessities” can be quite humorous!)
  • Meetings–Sometimes we even have family meetings to discuss possible activities over a school break, changes in chores, meal planning.
  • Previewing–At school, teachers preview or pre-teach material so my younger son is prepared to go into regular ed.  Works very well! We’ve done this at home too.  The first time we hosted Thanksgiving, we did a trial run with a roasted chicken, instant mashed potatoes, and green beans, complete with the Thanksgiving table decorations.  That Thanksgiving was the calmest ever.

Although we don’t do this consistently as we would prefer, our past efforts have made the present ones easier.  Hotels are not a big struggle now for my boys, as they know what to expect.  My oldest will ask us when we are going to discuss family fun activities for the next break. My youngest will keep us on track—“We said we’d stop for slushies, remember???”

Preparation is key for us.  What do you do to prepare?

2 responses to this post.

  1. I wish we could get a bit of previewing going on at school. Ugh!

    I love the idea of printing out the maps so they can check off the towns; I think we’ll have to try that one! I am a big fan of making schedules, both for the day and for a task. Social stories are great, as is role playing and even making little movies about different scenarios. We have one he did with our OT on YouTube (user name is wherestheboxful).


    • Previewing at a school has been wonderful. He goes into regular ed with confidence.

      The maps work so well, especially when we fly out of state to see my parents and have to drive 3 hours to get to their house.

      I’ll have to look you up on YouTube… you are so high tech! LOL


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