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Bringing Back Needed Structure and Routine

When the pandemic began in March 2020, our world took a sharp turn, and everyone’s life looked very different. With all the changes that occurred, known routines and schedules were literally turned upside down. We were left with uncertainty, few answers, and we may have lost control of maintaining what we had implemented and put in place, as well as the predictability that our loved ones with autism are so used to.

As hard as we tried, it was just not the same, as we were restricted, and we had to make many adjustments for our loved ones. Going out in the community, was no longer an option. Somehow, we all adjusted, even though it was not seamless, but we did our best, given the circumstances.

As we are slowly crawling out of this “new normal,” we need to be thinking about bringing back the much-needed structure — the routine, the plan, the predictability. Summer has also just arrived, and opportunities are becoming available again. Many summer camps are back in operation and in-person, and parks are open for all to enjoy. Lakes have boats again, and there are footprints on our wonderful beaches.

If you had a visual schedule in place prior to the pandemic, bring it back. The gears need to be shifting again. Let us keep our autism community busy and give them the support system that that we had in place that was working before the pandemic.

When my son Logan was three years old, we started off with a picture schedule. We used the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS). This worked very well for him at the time. When he started to learn to read, we added the words to each picture, and then slowly faded the pictures, and only displayed the words. We used a laminated board that we made and used Velcro strips. He additionally enjoyed hearing the velcro, as they were removed from the strip, and carried over to the “completed task” side. Now that he is a young adult, his schedule has been renamed “The plan” and this is delivered to him via text. It works for him and is more age appropriate.

Not everybody is completely back in the community as before, but there are more opportunities for all to explore, and bringing back the visuals, structure, and routine, will only make this transitional period that much more meaningful and successful.

Have a happy visual summer, filled with structure, routine, and predictability.


More Information

Visual Schedules Important Even as Children Grow Up
The Importance of Keeping it Visual during Summer Break
Autism Society of North Carolina’s Social Narratives


Juliette Heim, an ASNC Autism Resource Specialist in Asheville and mom to a son with autism, can be reached at jheim@autismsociety-nc.org.


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