How to optimize your child’s development in the new year

Foster your child’s language, behavior & social skills

It’s a new year and while many are making resolutions about balance, exercise, weight loss and quitting bad habits, we are thinking about how you can make this year an extraordinary one for your loved one on the autism spectrum.

It’s a great time to consider and commit to the following ideas:
Buy a monthly wall calendar and hang it up in your home

Many of us keep a digital calendar on our phone or computer, but for individuals who are more visually oriented, think about getting a good, old fashioned wall calendar with one of your child’s favorite themes (Think: Disney movies, Mario Bros., trains,
dinosaurs, etc.). Sit down and write down or add pictures of important holidays, events, birthdays, notable school dates, etc. to help your child anticipate and understand important dates. This simple tool can build excitement and establish a sense of wellbeing for them as they know what comes next.

Establish a daily checklist

I love checklists! There’s nothing better than a sense of accomplishment when you can go down your list and check off things you need to do as part of a routine. This kind of daily tracking activity can give one a sense of pride and help build independence.

Pick a nutrition goal to work on

Many of our kiddos struggle with digestion and gastrointestinal conditions that are co-occurring with behavioral differences like autism. My advice is to keep it easy and simple; pick one or two things to focus on in 2024 to improve gut overall health. Drinking more water is a great way to help with digestion. You can even buy a new water bottle with your child’s favorite character on it to make it fun. Another idea, increase naturally occurring fiber in your child’s diet. One way to do this is by adding extra cup of blueberries or choosing wheat bread over white bread in their PBJ. It doesn’t have to be a total lifestyle change to make progress on this front.

Commit to reading or looking at books with your child every day

Reading and enjoying stories not only can build skills your child needs, it also gives you valuable time to slow down and simply be together. Whether you read or they read, or just look at pictures, keep it enjoyable. Asking questions about the story or talking about the pictures can help your child learn new language and build comprehension skills. Start where you child is. You may be able to read a full book with them or you may only hold their attention for a page or two. Regardless of the amount of time, you are creating the opportunity for learning.

Establish a bedtime routine

We know every child benefits from structure and routine. Establishing a predictable nighttime routine can help get your loved ones in bed at a set time every night. A routine can also help ensure the start to a good night’s sleep.

Practice makes progress

Starting any new pattern or activity may present challenges for children with autism. Consider setting small goals and then building upon them as goals are met. Always remember to provide praise, hugs, and high fives for cooperation and completion of goals.

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