MOFAS: Keeping Routines for Children with an FASD
Having a routine for children with a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) can help reduce stress and anxiety. Children with an FASD have permanent brain injuries that can impact communication, understanding, responses to stress, and more. It can help your child overcome these brain injury symptoms, and stay calm more easily, to know what to expect, where they are going, and who they’ll be with.
Here are some tips for keeping a routine for your child with an FASD:
Plan out your day
Planning out your child’s day, to the extent you can, can help alleviate stress. Children with an FASD might have fears of the unknown. It can be helpful to talk about daily activities and what your child can expect. When kids know what is to come, they often have an easier time with transitions. Check the MOFAS Pinterest page for ideas on how to make your own charts and calendars. You can also try to plan ahead to address things you know might cause anxiety for a child. For example, if you’re headed somewhere where you expect a crowd, and you know your child gets anxious in that situation, you and your child can plan what they can use as fidgets, safe spaces, and breathing techniques that will help them stay calm.
Use alarms and timers to help keep track of time
Children with an FASD can have a hard time knowing the difference between one minute, five minutes, or 30 minutes. To help your child manage time, you can use visual timers, markings on the face of an analog clock, auditory timers, and alarms. Setting times for brushing teeth, taking a shower, or even getting ready for school can help your child stay on track. Create a sense of time with the help from FAS Link.
Give clear instructions
If you ask a child without an FASD to do their homework, they’ll understand what that means. But a child with an FASD may need to have all those steps broken down. “Do your homework” could be described in steps using the “first – then” approach like this:
To do your homework:
- First, find your backpack.
- Then, take out your homework assignment.
Next, do your assignment:
- First, grab your pencil.
- Then, write your assignment.
Lastly, you’ll need to put everything away:
- First, put the homework and pencil back in your backpack.
- Then, put your backpack by the door for the morning.
Kids with an FASD need to have a clear understanding of all the steps. For additional ideas on how to help a child with an FASD handle routines, check out The Autism Helper.
Days fluctuate. Schedules won’t always be perfect, and there will be meltdowns and other setbacks. That’s okay. If you can, allow time for improvising, taking things a little slower, and rebounding. And if you notice a certain routine isn’t working, you may want to try making some changes. Things won’t work every time, what works for some may not work for others, and what works one day may not work another day. Trust your instinct on what your child needs. And as hard as it is, taking care of yourself as much as you can help you stay flexible and creative when things aren’t going as planned.
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