Autistic kids do not like change. Autistic adults don’t ‘love’ change, but they are arguably much better at handling it than kids. With maturity comes new strategies.
But Jack is still establishing strategies and with that comes its own challenges. Last year (and the year before) in the weeks and months before I was due for surgery, I would spend a lot of time discussing expectations and rules. For example, Jack knew he must not climb on me for cuddles, although he could sit beside me. He also knew he might have to help me to reach things, I might need to ask him for things, or he might need to get his own snacks if he was hungry. We prepared him for the possibility I might be in hospital for over a week, but he knew he could visit or FaceTime me when he needed me.
Overall, he coped exceptionally.
Today is the last day of term before the Easter Holidays and, honestly I’m behind the curve this time. I’ve booked and paid for his activities, planned in 2 days of downtime to recover from being out of routine, and told him that he will spend the second week at his dads and we are counting down the days together. Kinda forgot to prep him for the week with me though. Whoops! So tomorrow will be spent planning for the week ahead.
Here are some strategies we use, often without thinking, that can help to prepare for a week “off piste”:
- Make a Holiday Timetable: We get ours through a local organisation called Take 5 and Chat, who designed this with kids like Jack in mind. You can cross off the activities you’ve done, you can stick it on the fridge as a reference to household members who might need it, and it’s very easy to follow.
- Use visual prompts: We have this lovely little set called Tom Tags (available from Orkid Ideas) and they are small, portable and flexible to fit the days routines. Using the strips and stickers, you can build your own visual timetable strip to take with you. We also use them in school for helping Jack manage his emotions.
- Talk to your child: Explain what is going on, when, and what kinds of things might happen. Discuss rules and boundaries, and what to do if there’s an emergency or they get scared or upset.
- Prepare Social Stories: We attended a course on how to write our own social stories though the Toby Henderson Trust about a year ago, but there are also examples online, and some autism-friendly organisations even have them pre-written for children attending for the first time. Social stories explain routines, places to visit, boundaries – anything you need – in a way the child can better understand.
- Keep it simple: Don’t bombard the child with information. Tackle one day at a time. Don’t brief them on the whole week or you’re just setting yourself up to fail.
I’m really looking forward to the week ahead, and I just hope I’ve got it right this time. Wouldn’t be the first time I’ve over/underestimated our capabilities. Fingers crossed!