Do you remember the last time you started a brand new job? Your first day was likely filled with anxiety, excitement, and a lot of adrenaline. You had to learn the layout of the building and the “who’s who” all while adjusting to a new set of rules and maybe even a brand new career. You had to re-learn where you fit in, what you are supposed to be doing, where the bathroom is, and maybe even how to work the equipment. Finding ourselves outside of our comfort zones can be disorienting, and the accompanying stress may manifest in a variety of ways that threaten to take a toll on our physical health.
Now imagine waking up in a parallel universe where you are forced to start a brand new job every single day. How would you react to constantly being out of not just your element, but any element? For young children, particularly those on the Autism Spectrum, this feeling of being “out of one’s element” is persistent. Anxiety and stress levels tend to run high and manifest in the form of headaches, stomachaches, behavior changes, and even full-blown meltdowns.
Learning to navigate the ins and outs of a big world is exciting for children, but it is also challenging. Every day is an adventure, but every day is also incredibly frightening. Developing skills in cognition, social interactions, and language requires repetition and patience. It’s also no easy feat to remain fully present and open to exploration when in the back of your mind you are constantly wondering, “What’s next?” because each experience – even the mundane – feels brand new.
When you started your new job it probably helped to know you could count on some things to remain constant. Maybe your vanilla lattes from Starbucks or Tuesday date nights helped reduce your anxiety and stress during your transition period. Establishing and maintaining a routine for kids at home is important. Routines give your child familiarity, safety, and strengthen trust. Children do crave structure and do well exploring their autonomy within pre-determined boundaries, so don’t be afraid to set them! I generally recommend that parents begin with a bedtime routine.
What is your child’s routine like? Call Integrated Child at 716-650-0354 to learn more about choosing the routine that can help optimize your family’s fun and your child’s success!