How to Create an Environment That is Fit for Children with Autism

Happy family

If your child has recently been diagnosed with a behavior disorder such as autism, you already know how integral structure is to ensure they can successfully navigate their daily schedule. The Behavior Exchange relies upon the principles of applied behavior analysis to create structured learning environments that foster social interaction and communication and result in meaningful behavioral solutions. Integrate this philosophy into your home by following these tips to create a safe, nurturing, and successful environment for your child.

Minimize Clutter

Whether your child is at home or at school, her environment should be set up so that it makes sense. First, minimize clutter. Children with learning and behavioral challenges thrive when a room is visually organized. Be sure to re-organize cluttered rooms with bookcases and toy chests.  Utilize plastic bins.  Place a picture on the outside of the bin showing what the contents of the bin are so that a child can easily find what they are looking for and easily put items back where they belong.  This type of system also allows you to rotate what bins/materials are available so that each week or month you can vary the toys and instructional materials to keep the learning materials fresh and to avoid the child becoming satiated with the items due to overuse. . In addition, you can place the most desirable items out of reach so that your child is required to communicate their wants and needs with you to access what they want.  This environmental arrangement visually helps the child make sense of the space and facilitates communication use.

Encourage Independence

To properly teach any behavior or skill to a young learner, parents and educators alike should remember never to perform tasks for students that they are able to do for themselves. Make sure your young learner can practice important skills and master tasks by giving her independent access to materials. For example, teach your child to set the table for dinner.  By using placemats that have the outline of a plate, fork, spoon, knife and cup, the child will be able to quickly learn how to successfully complete each place setting. Over time, any place mat can be used as they will have mastered the skill.  We often hear that morning and bedtime routines are difficult times for families.  Structure these routines so that whatever behaviors are expected: dressing for school or bed, brushing teeth, etc. are done in the same exact sequence each morning/night and that a highly desired event occurs after successful completion of the routine.  So, after the child puts on shirt, pants, socks and shoes and brushes their teeth, they can eat breakfast and watch TV until it is time to leave for school. 

Foster Communication

Even if your child is nonverbal, every individual must develop communication skills to allow them to get their basic needs and wants met through verbal language, sign language, picture exchange, or with the use of recommended devices (IPAD is our favorite if a device is needed). Be sure to reinforce behaviors that promote independent communication, and allow your child to express her needs and desires and always require more elaborate communication.  At The Behavior Exchange, we focus on verbal language with supports and can teach you valuable ways to facilitate language development all day, every day as part of your natural routine.

At The Behavior Exchange of Dallas, our highly trained and caring staff are dedicated to the belief that what could be, can be. Our intensive work involves the family, schools, and other professionals, and our mission requires patience, focus, and expertise. To learn more about our use of applied behavior analysis to bring out your child’s full potential, call (972)312-8733 today. 

Written By Tammy Cline-Soza, MS, BCBA

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