Filling in the Time

Throughout the day, there are many times where we have some 'downtime' or have a bit of time to just relax and do nothing (even if it's just for 5 minutes!)

These time periods are beneficial in helping us reset and recharge, and could be considered part of 'self-care' (taking care of yourself first, so you can care for others - especially if that is a role you have!)

A lot of the clients we support, have a bit of down time throughout the day, but have very few activities they can engage in that they enjoy, and can fill in that time. More often than not, they engage in repetitive behaviours, for long periods of time (up to hours on end), that can become quite restrictive, and impact on their ability to transition, try new things, and sometimes even stay safe.

We utilise the Essential for Living Assessment and Curriculum as part of our assessment process, and our assessment quite often highlights that many of our clients have very few activities they like to spend time doing. We then brainstorm with them, their families, and carers about new ideas we can test out, to see what they prefer, and perhaps even use in a structured independent activity time.

The aim being, they find new activities they enjoy doing, and would be happy to do in some of their down time. Ideally, as independently as possible, but often there are some activities that are better done with more than one person (certain games, and some activities, like going for a bushwalk, can be fun with a friend).

It is quite an interesting idea, and the hardest part is generally thinking of activities that we can try out at first, but there have been some quite surprising preferred activities!

A list of some of the activities we have tried out with clients (most of our clients are adolescents and adults):

  • find-a-words/word searches

  • dot-to-dots

  • puzzles

  • making funny videos on instagram

  • making playlists on Spotify and listening to them

  • 'academic' workbooks (see examples from Adulting Made Easy)

  • Reading/flipping through magazines

  • Reading/flipping through books

  • paint by numbers matching/sticker book matching

  • colouring in

  • card games/flipping through cards (character cards e.g. Toy Story, Super Mario)

And these are just some of the ideas we've tried out. Some have worked, some haven't, but we get a few together to get started.

We also aim to generalise this to other locations and people. Generalisation is an extremely important part of the process. We want this skill to maintain over time, and in different places, so we need the activities to be accessible in multiple ways.

One of the aspects of this we are looking into further is, do these independent activity schedules reduce the client's frequency/rate/duration of restricted and repetitive behaviours (RRB)? (Particularly those RRB that are continuous, can lead to restrictions, and/or possibly dangerous and unsafe for the client). Stay tuned for more information!

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