Many children with special needs use a visual schedule to organize their day. A visual schedule shows which activities and the order in which the activities will happen. A visual schedule can map out a big chunk of time such as an entire morning, afternoon or even a whole day. A first/then visual schedule shows what will happen just now (first) and what will happen next (then). (Endow, 2011)
Just like people of all ages can learn, so is it that autistic people of all ages can learn. It is an utterly sad state of affairs that this even needs to be said, but unfortunately, it needs to be said. Too often I see autistic children being babysat rather than being taught at school. When I ask about academic curriculum being used, I am told, “Oh, he has autism” as if this is an answer to my question.
One way people learn is from consequences. For example, if you leave your car parked outside with the windows down and it rains, the natural consequence is that your car seats will get wet. Sometimes a person with authority over another engineers a consequence for certain behaviors as a way to decrease the frequency of unwanted behaviors. For example, a mother or a caregiver might decide that if hitting occurs at the park there will be no going to the park for the next two weeks. This sort of engineered consequence for unwanted behavior works for most people most of the time. It is why we use it to successfully teach our children to become responsible citizens – responsible for themselves, their behavior, their belongings and beyond. These kinds of consequences rarely work well for individuals with autism.
Accommodations are something provided by law to people with disabilities. It is easy for people to understand physical accommodations such as wheelchairs and curb cuts. It is much more difficult for people to understand accommodations when it involves sensory and processing differences such as those common to autistic people.
Lots of people like to eat out. I do, too. Because of my sensory sensitivities, I have learned to reduce certain input to the best of my ability in restaurants so as to better enjoy the experience.
Every first Friday of the month, I am part of a group of seven women who go out to eat. We are all moms of children with autism ranging in age from 13 to 30-something. Most of us have served on autism-related boards together over the years. Each month we choose a new restaurant. No matter where we go, we are the table of people who laugh the most!