Most of us are creatures of habit. I definitely like things to stay the same, and have my same routines - parking in the spot at the shops, same process of checking Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, in the morning when I wake up! It helps me get ready for the day, have a bit of downtime, and know what to expect. I find having a routine at the airport extremely helpful. It helps calm my nerves while flying.
Predicatability, makes everyones lives easier. Of course, there are unexpected changes, and for some people we support, dealing with these unexpected changes can be very difficult, but we will talk about that in another blog post.
Why provide predictability? To help make sense of the world, increase participation in activities independently, be able to communicate needs and wants more easily (rather than using challenging behaviour).
Choices can make it easier. Offering choices allows you to have more of a say in what happens in your day. Of course, sometimes, making a choice, can also be difficult, but at least offering a choice will provide an opportunity for someone to have more of a say in what happens in their daily life.
Ways that you help help provide predictability when supporting individuals with autism, or an intellectual disability, include setting routines, using visual schedules, and using a 'first and then' approach.
Setting routines might involve a bit of work initially, getting the routines up and running, but can make like a lot easier (for everyone who the routine involves!) Routines can be helpful for getting up in the morning, bath time, dinner time, going to bed, but can also be helpful for difficult, or less preferred tasks e.g. a routine for how we come home from school and transition to homework.
Whether we realise it or not, we all probably have some sort of visual schedule that we use throughout the day, to help us get from A to B, or remember what we need to do. I definitely use my calendar as a visual schedule, to keep track of everything I'm doing (and when I look at it, it really helps 😀). Visual schedule doesn't have to mean "pictures" or "photos" - it is whatever is going to help the person you are putting it in place for, understand what is happening now, and what is happening later, so individualise it and get creative.
Another great strategy that can help many people understand what is happening now, and then later, providing a little bit more predictability, is using a 'first/then' statement. This is where you say "first we will do this and then we will go and do that." Usually you would want the second thing to be something they really want or like, and the first to be something they don't like, or find difficult, but that doesn't always have to be the case.
As mentioned above, while predicability is important, and can help reduce the person's need to use challenging behaviour to get their needs met, it also is good to look at teaching an individual to tolerate changes, as life is full of changes, and things don't always go according to plan. More on this, to come!