How We Use a Flexible Schedule to Construct Our Autistic Son’s Afternoon Routine

Categories: Parent Perspective

If your child doesn’t attend an afterschool program, the afternoons can drag on. They can also be challenging, especially if you are a parent, like me, who works from home. How do you help your child fill that time to be both productive and enjoyable? The flexible schedule we use is the perfect transition from after school into our evening routine. It’s easy to structure and implement and to get up and running in no time!

Activities on the Schedule

The activities on the schedule vary. Some daily activities are very specific. Some daily activities are flexible. And some activities aren’t daily.

Specific Daily Activities  

  • Medicine – My son takes his afternoon meds each day at 3:00 pm. This is the start of the schedule.
  • Snack and Talk – After his meds, he has a snack and conversation with either me, his behavior therapist, a peer, etc. This is a no device time. It is to encourage organic conversation.
  • Homework – He’s in second grade and his teacher thankfully doesn’t assign a ton of homework. But daily I have him do an activity related to what he’s learning that week. Just to get him into the habit. I keep it short and simple.
  • Read a Book – This is one thing his teacher does expect daily, but the students also get rewarded for it. So there is built-in reinforcement.
  • Wash Lunchbox and Snack Plate – To teach responsibility, my son washes his lunchbox and snack plate. To make it fun, I bought him a Sponge Bob sponge that is only for him to use.
  • Chore – He has a few simple chores he can choose from. I’ve written the steps out and he earns $1.00 per chore per day. He keeps track of his earnings on a printable banking ledger. He was saving towards an oversized Pikachu, but I won him one at a carnival so now he’s saving up to go to the new Super Mario movie. The chores are simple such as taking out his bathroom trash or checking the mail.

Daily Activities With Choice

  • Barclay’s Choice – Each day, he gets to choose an activity. I have a list of things we can do inside, such as board games and watch a TV show, and things we can do outside such as go to the playground or play soccer.
  • Therapist’s Choice – Each day his therapist is here, they get to choose an activity. This is to help him learn that other people can pick activities that he can be a good friend and join in on something someone else wants to do.
  • Mom’s Choice- Mom can choose an activity from the inside or outside list.
  • Independent Time – This is an opportunity for him to choose an activity to do alone. During independent time he’s learning that he can do things on his own and to wait if he needs help.

Organization and Execution

After School Binder

I am a big fan of binders. Inside his afternoon binder are his banking ledger, the list of acceptable activities for inside and outside, his list of chores and their steps, and his homework. 

The Schedule

I laminated a piece of paper with blank lines and added velcro dots.

Then I typed out the things for his afternoon, such as Medicine, Snack and Talk, Read a Story, etc. I cut them out, laminated them, and added a velcro dot.

The adults build the schedule for him. Making sure to vary it from day to day. This means he doesn’t get fixated on the same routine. Some days he gets his choice first, some days the therapist does. Some days he does his chore before his homework, etc. You get the idea.

The Results

Our afternoons run so smoothly now! He enjoys completing each activity and taking it off the schedule. It gives him a feeling of accomplishment. It’s also replaced hours of tv or device usage. When he gets his device at the end of the day, he’s earned it. It’s also helped with him learning responsibility and pride.

If you chose to implement a flexible schedule as we have, work with your child to explain. Start off with just a few highly preferred items and add the demands such as a chore or washing a dish as they get used to it. You’ll find your child, and you, are much more productive in the afternoons. It also cuts maladaptive behavior to demands because they are simply a part of their day. If you need any help in implementation, please feel free to reach out. 


  1. I love this!!! I work in a school in special education. I am so giving this article to our SLL people. What a great Idea. I could see this used with so many students I work with….

    • SO great to hear this was helpful! Thanks for sharing!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *