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  • Writer's pictureAmy Dougley

Encouraging Our Autistic Kids to Try Something New

One common characteristic of autism is a preference for “sameness”. For an autistic child, this might look like a preference for routine or specific ways of doing activities or routines. Examples of preferences for sameness could include: 


  • Being resistant to new activities, places, or ways of doing things

  • Wanting to drive a specific route to school or other places

  • Wanting to watch a specific video clip repetitively

  • Playing with toys in a ritualistic way (same toys, same order) 


Routines and sameness can be soothing to an autistic child, relieving anxiety and helping them feel safe when they know what to expect. However, sometimes you’ll need to encourage your child to try something new and encourage flexibility in order to set them up for success.


Here are some ways to do that!

1. Try to incorporate your child’s strengths and interests. For example, if your child enjoys music, turn on music while they try the new thing! 

2. Talk to your child about it when something unexpected will happen (e.g. an event). This way they will have an opportunity to process the change and any potential anxieties can be addressed.

3. Help your child choose a calming strategy for when they feel upset about something happening differently than expected. Examples: taking a deep breath, self-talk “I am okay/I can do this”, snuggling a favourite stuffy or blanket, etc.

4. Set up “practices” with your child. Think about various situations where something unexpected might happen and practice these, using the calming strategy. 

5. Use positive reinforcement: if your child tries something new or is flexible with a routine, encourage/praise your child’s efforts! You can even provide access to a special toy or activity. 


These tips come from Board Certified Behaviour Analyst, Alisa Gagne. For more information about how Alisa can help you and your family, call us at 519.751.0728.

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