The Importance of Clear Expectations in Times of Uncertainty

Guest Authored By Kerry P, MOT, OTR/L

We are living in an unprecedented time.  With all of the uncertainty occurring, it is more important than ever to provide clear expectations to our children within the events and daily happenings that we can control.  Not only is this current pandemic difficult for typically developing children, it is extremely difficult for children with developmental challenges.  

Imagine being a child with developmental disabilities, unable to understand what is going on around you.  These children do not tend to inherently develop the necessary skills of mental flexibility and adaptability.  They do not have memories of how to deal with unexpected changes, especially of this magnitude.  

Listed are some strategies that you can use every day to ease transitions between and within a variety of activities for children of all abilities.

First/Then 

Using “First/Then” language is the best tool to keep in your back pocket when a child is seemingly inconsolable.  Limiting verbal instruction is key when attempting to garner a child’s attention and regulation.  It allows children to have a very clear expectation of what is happening and what will happen with limited verbal cues required.  Example: “First we eat dinner, then we play with toys” and even further simplified as “First dinner, then toys.” 

Visual Schedule  

This can be as simple as a whiteboard with no more than 5 items (keeping the visual on the whiteboard as limited as possible for clear understanding).  Try to end the schedule with a preferred item that the child can “work” toward. 

Routine Schedule/Chart 

Separate the day into chunks.  If morning is difficult, make a Morning Routine Chart.  The same goes for nighttime, school arrival, school departure, etc.  Excellent resources can be found on ToolsToGrowOT.com.  On the website, they provide a free PDF download of an After School Routine Chart.  It is free to sign up for access to this download.  The website also has pre-made routine charts for morning and nighttime; however, a subscription is required to access these PDFs. 

Checklists 

Checklists are a great way to show children clear expectations of what to do within 1 task and also work great for use throughout the day. 

These clear expectations are vital for children of all abilities.  It is our duty to provide as much comfort and clarity as possible to our kiddos.  Together, we can offer as much stability as possible in this truly uncertain time. 

Eyas Landing is a therapy clinic with a mission to provide evidence-based and family-centered therapy services for children, adolescents, and their families. The primary goal is to deliver relationship-based interventions within the most natural environments and to empower families to reach their full potential. To achieve this goal, our highly educated, compassionate staff dedicates time and expertise to create experiences that maximize therapeutic outcomes. The strength, determination, and perseverance of our clients are evident as they succeed in therapy, and ultimately in their daily lives.

Eyas Landing offers a wide range of comprehensive services including Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, ABA Therapy, Social Work, Family Therapy, and Neuropsych testing. Services are provided throughout the Chicagoland area via Telehealth, In-Home, and in our state of the art clinic.

Want to learn more or you have a specific question? Feel free to connect with us here!