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Why Children with Autism Need Routines at Home

Humans thrive on routine. All people, regardless of age, lifestyle, or background, benefit from having an established schedule in their lives. Routines are particularly helpful for children with autism due to their repetitive patterns of behavior, activities, and hobbies. The adherence to an established routine can be a powerful tool in bringing stability and comfort to their lives.


There is a great deal of research that shows that the implementation of a predictable, daily routine for your child with autism can help them function more independently and improve social-emotional health.

Daily routines can:

  • Build a stronger caregiver-child connection

  • Reduce power struggles and stress

  • Improve cooperation

  • Foster a genuine sense of ownership over their day

  • Create an environment of security and comfort















With consistency and predictability, you can help your child with autism establish order in their life. Routines are key to helping them thrive for the following reasons:

Routine Comes Naturally

Children with autism tend to prefer repetition and sameness. Whether it’s for their preferred activities, hobbies, mealtimes, or bedtime, routines come naturally to them. Routines can be a great tool that helps your children in a way that feels natural and comforting to them.

Routine Provides Stress Relief

All individuals, including children with autism, can find relief in knowing what to expect at any given time in their schedule. As your child learns to make sense of their surroundings and expectations, a routine can help them navigate their life with ease and confidence.

Routine Brings Order to an Otherwise Chaotic World

Children with autism often have difficulty making sense of new sounds, behaviors, or events. A routine can create order in their life by helping them learn what to expect, when to expect it, and how to react. Predictability can enable your child to thrive.

Routine Can Help Children with Autism Learn New Skills

When your child feels safe, secure, and their stress levels are down, they’re in a more receptive state to strengthen existing skills and learn new ones. Providing them with a familiar routine is a great way to not only help them cope with possibly anxiety-inducing situations but also to set them up to achieve new things.
















Tips to Successfully Maintain a Routine

Creating a successful routine for your child does not have to be complex or overwhelming. Use the following tips to create a simple routine that sets the whole family up for success:

  • Create a visual tool such as a calendar on the fridge or poster on the wall to help your child understand their routine

  • Use positive reinforcement with tools like a sticker chart to reward completion of tasks

  • Refer often to the visual schedule and reinforce the importance of each event or task

  • Use verbal communication to walk your child through each task – before, during, and after

  • Once you and your child have maintained a consistent schedule, gradually add new tasks into the routine to help them learn new skills and behaviors

When you are raising a child with autism, you must provide the tools and skills to help your child thrive. Building and maintaining routines will go a long way in helping your child learn new skills, make progress, and achieve goals.  

5 Important Exercises for Autistic Kids

For autistic kids studies show that vigorous activity for more than 20 minutes can help decrease stereotypical behaviors, hyperactivity, and aggression. Exercise not only helps autistic children better engage in the environment, but it also helps promote weight loss and leads to better overall health.

Full-body exercises are best for autistic kids to increase coordination, strength, endurance, and body awareness. Here are five exercises to try.

















Tips for getting started

When teaching an autistic child a new exercise, it’s important to do so in a calm and supportive environment. Use positive reinforcement such as “You’re doing a great job!” Also use verbal or hands-on cues to help guide them through the movements and decrease the chances of them getting frustrated and upset.

Bear crawls

Bear crawls help develop body awareness, improve coordination and motor planning, and build strength in the trunk and upper body.

  1. Start by kneeling on all fours, with hands under shoulders and knees under hips.

  2. Extend legs until slightly bent. Spread your fingers wide to have optimal contact with the floor.

  3. Walk using your feet and hands across the floor approximately 10-20 feet.

  4. Maintain this position and walk backward in the same fashion.

  5. Try switching up the speed and direction for optimal results.

  6. If this movement is too hard, hands-on guidance at the hips from an instructor can help.

Medicine ball slams

Throwing weighted objects like medicine balls can increase core strength and balance and help improve coordination. It may also have therapeutic benefits and can stimulate brain centers responsible for short-term memory.

  1. Begin in a standing position, holding a medicine ball in both hands.

  2. Raise the ball up overhead with straight arms.

  3. Slam the ball down to the ground with as much force as possible.

  4. Bend at the knees to pick up the ball and repeat the movement 20 times.

  5. You can make this exercise harder by throwing the ball to hit a target or increasing the weight of the ball.

Star jumps

Jumping tasks are a great full-body exercises that help improve cardiovascular endurance, strengthen legs and the core, and increase body awareness. Star jumps can be performed anywhere and can be done one at a time or in multiple repetitions.

  1. Begin in a squatting position with knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and arms tucked in toward the chest.

  2. Quickly jump up from squatting, extending arms and legs wide into an X.

  3. On landing, return to starting position with arms and legs tucked in. Repeat for up to 20 repetitions or until fatigued.

















Arm circles

In a study published in Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, the authors found that movements similar to those exhibited by autistic people may help provide needed feedback to the body. This may reduce repetitive behaviors such as arm flapping or clapping. Arm circles are a great upper-body exercise that helps increase flexibility and strength in the shoulders and back and can be done anywhere with no equipment.

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, arms by your side.

  2. Extend arms straight out to the side at shoulder height.

  3. Start making small circles with the hands, keeping the arms straight.

  4. Gradually make the circles bigger and bigger, creating the movement from the shoulders.

  5. Repeat 20 times, then repeat in other direction.

Mirror exercises

Autism is typically marked by difficulty interacting with others or the environment. Mirror exercises encourage the child to mimic what another person is doing, which can increase coordination, body awareness, and social skills.

  1. Stand to face a partner, hands by your side.

  2. Have your partner start making slow movements with their arms. Try starting with circles and progressing to more complex patterns.

  3. When ready, mimic your partner’s movement as if you were looking at yourself in a mirror. For example, if they raise their right arm, you raise your left arm.

  4. Try lightly touching hands for added feedback

  5. Continue this activity for 1-2 minutes. Try incorporating other body parts such as the head, trunk, and legs. Repeat 3-5 times.

Pro tips

  • Always consult a doctor before starting an exercise program with an autistic child.

  • Start slow and monitor for signs of fatigue such as shortness or breath, muscle cramps, or dizziness.

  • Ensure the child is well hydrated and rested before exercising.

  • It’s best to start at a low intensity and slowly work your way up to harder, more vigorous sessions.

Exercise has many benefits for autistic children. A study from Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology Trusted Source states that 79 percent of autistic children have movement impairments, which can be worsened by an inactive lifestyle. Physical activity may not only decrease negative behaviors but can increase mood, improve coping skills, and enhance overall quality of life.

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