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“I just want my Autistic child to be as independent as they can be”

Sound familiar?

When working with my coaching clients, boosting their Autistic child’s independence is almost always one of their primary goals.

And for good reason… Who doesn’t want to help their child be more independent?

Who wouldn’t want to empower their child as much as possible?

And let me tell you, there are a ton of ways you can help your Autistic child be more independent…

So I’m going to focus on the easiest one to get started right away: building routines that boost your Autistic child’s independence.

Young boy sitting on the floor tying his shoes. Text reads: "How to Build Routines That Boost Independence For Your Autistic Child"

Build Your Autistic Child’s Independence With Routines

Now before I jump in, I need to address something really important.

There isn’t anything wrong with empowering your child to be as independent as possible.

But I need to caution you… Be careful not to put independence on a pedestal.

The fact is, some Autistics will not ever be fully independent (just like some humans, in general, will not be fully independent).

So while we want to set our kids up for success, we want to hold our definition of success loosely.

Good? Okay, then let’s dive in!

How Routines Help Build Independence

First, let’s talk about how routines help to build your child’s independence.

See, you may have heard that Autistic children thrive with routines, but you may not have truly understood why.

The fact is, routines help Autistic kids know what to expect.

Knowing what to expect helps to lower our anxiety.

It also helps us meet those expectations because sometimes without routines we don’t know what the expectations are.

And finally, routines help us with our executive functioning struggles.

Now, what does that have to do with independence?

Quite simply, your Autistic child is able to be more independent when they:

  • have lower anxiety
  • know what to expect
  • are supported with executive functioning
Two kids sit on the floor putting on shoes.

3 Steps to a Routine for Your Autistic Child

So now that we know why routines are important for your Autistic child’s independence, let’s talk about exactly how to set up those routines.

Now, if you know me you know that I struggle with executive functioning, and sticking with routines has never really come naturally to me.

So even if you “never stick to a schedule” or you “hate routines”

These three simple steps are going to help you build routines for your Autistic child that actually work.

Step One: Check Your Expectations

I know this is the last thing anyone wants to hear, but the expectations most of us have for routines are way too extreme.

We try to routine-ize our entire day, or we try to create routines from scratch that include a million and four things we would only do on the best day ever.

So instead, check your expectations and decide to start small and realistic.

Instead of a whole school routine, maybe try a routine for getting started with school.

Instead of “going to bed”, maybe try going to the bathroom and brushing teeth.

Young white boy holding a blue toothbrush and brushing his teeth.

Step Two: One Routine at a Time

Next, you’re going to want to zoom way in and work on one routine at a time.

Think about the one area in your day that your Autistic child could use more independence.

Maybe it’s getting ready for school in the morning, or maybe it’s getting their own snack.

Then list out all the steps that might be included in that routine.

Go as granular as your child needs here, and add everything you can think of.

Step Three: Start With a Habit

Now that you have your big list of steps that go into your routine, your first thought might be to make a pretty visual checklist.

But not so fast, friend.

Because even though you were awesome and followed step one, your routine is still probably too big for your child to take on all at once.

So instead, you’re going to start with just one step and make it a habit.

Once your child is doing the first step of the routine easily and as a habit, you can start to add the second step.

Add steps slowly until the entire routine happens without even thinking twice.

This is the best way to make sure your child’s routine works longterm, and they’re able to follow it as independently as possible.

Now, this process doesn’t happen overnight, and there are definitely some ups and downs as you and your child get the hang of things.

So I suggest you have someone go along the journey with you as you build up these routines to help you troubleshoot and stay the course.

That’s what I do with my coaching clients.

Together we determine what their specific goals are, build the routines and systems that make sense for their unique situation, and help guide their child in completing routines independently.

If you’d like more information on how you can work with me to create step-by-step routines that are unique to your family, click here.

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