For a child with autism who loves routine, the end-of-year holidays can be disruptive. But now is also the perfect time for parents and families to set up for success in the new year, says Corinne Kelley, Board Certified Behavior Analyst and Assistant Director of Clinical Quality and Compliance with Gateway Pediatric Therapy in Bingham Farms.
Much as a New Year’s resolution serves as an intention for the coming year, planning for success allows you to set goals with your child — and involve siblings and extended family, too.
“Setting up for success early helps your child establish habits for the new year and get back on track,” Kelley says.
Ready to get started? Here, we share some expert tips and inspiration for setting up your child for success this year.
Celebrate small victories
As you begin your journey, remember that your child is an individual and that success looks different for each child. “Not all wins have to be big wins. It’s all about celebrating the victories along the way,” Kelley says. “Not everything is necessarily life-altering, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an important stepping stone to something greater.”
Start with smaller, more achievable goals. If you want your child to learn to wash their hands independently, break that one large task into smaller bites, then celebrate when your child masters them.
“Washing your hands sounds simple, but for a child with autism, that task involves so much: turning on the water, getting the soap, scrubbing hands, identifying if your hands are clean, then turning off the water,” Kelley explains. “Maybe your initial goal is having your child turn on the water independently, then helping them complete the rest of the task. Not every step is the end goal, but can be celebrated as a win, even if it’s on the smaller side.”
Consider your child’s success to be a team effort and get siblings involved as much as possible.
“Kids with autism have social deficits, so they should focus on conversation skills, reciprocal play, or anything they need another child to practice,” says Kelley. “Take advantage of natural opportunities to involve siblings by being inclusive when playing games. Have them practice asking questions about what happened in school that day. It’s important to collaborate and engage and everyone in the home can be part of that process.”
Broaden to include members of your extended family, too. Communicate with grandparents about home routines you’re working on and let them know what your child needs to be successful in their environment, Kelley suggests.
“As a parent, you are an expert on your child, even as you are getting to know more about their diagnosis. Not every family member will have that same level of understanding, so be patient. Everyone is learning,” she says.
Not everything will go as expected, so make your success plan fluid. “You might find a routine that works well the first time and that’s exciting. Other times, it might take a few tries. Don’t be discouraged if you have to make adjustments and give it proper time. A week isn’t enough to know if something will work,” Kelley says.
Here’s where you can ask your child’s ABA therapy team for help.
“A BCBA is a great person for generating back-and-forth collaboration. Your goals will help the BCBA guide the treatment according to what’s important to your family,” Kelley says.
Most of all, remember that success from day to day, week to week and month to month will look different, Kelley says. “Tomorrow might not look different, but in a month or a year, you will be in a different place. Be patient and remember that small wins are still wins.”
Gateway Pediatric Therapy offers best-in-class ABA therapy services at 13 locations in Michigan. Visit gatewaypediatrictherapy.com.