Providing an 'Autism Friendly' Environment
Provide a clear structure and routine where possible. Whilst unexpected change can’t always be avoided, trying to keep things as predictable and consistent as possible is a good way of helping to manage expectations and levels of anxiety.
Think about triggers – what causes your young person to feel anxious, worried, scared, or low in mood? By identifying triggers you can start to think about how to modify them, avoid them or explore ways of gradually introducing them to your young person.
Consistency is key – try to share what works with other family members, school or those involved in their care.
Think about sensory aspects – are certain rooms of the house over stimulating? For e.g., is there too much visual information in their bedroom which is preventing them from switching off at night and getting to sleep? Are the lights too bright in a particular room? Are there too many background noises which are preventing them from concentrating?
Try having designated areas for specific activities in the house. For example, lots of young people with ASD struggle with the idea of doing homework. Try to avoid using the dining room table for this (as it can serve to confuse them). Have a desk instead so they are given the clear cue that when sat at it, they do homework.
Provide a quiet space for calming down – use things which you know help to regulate them, such as a bean bag, softer lighting, lava lamps, bubble tubes, calming music etc. Use whatever works for your young person.
Use visual resources if required – even those more verbally able young people benefit from use of planners, calendars, timetables as they place less emphasis on memory, and are easier to make sense of than verbal instructions (especially when stressed or anxious).
Try to avoid using the word ‘no’ as this can often be a trigger for young people with ASD as it does not offer them an alternative. Instead provide a suggestion of what they can do.