Helping Your Child Recall Past Events

When your child gets home from school, and you ask her, “What did you do today?”, what is her usual response?

Here are some common responses that parents often report:
• Complete silence
• “Huh?”
• “Dunno.”
• “I played.”
• “I had lunch.”
• “I can’t remember.”

Do any of those examples sound familiar? Children with and without autism often respond the same way to that familiar question.

Here’s what you can do to help your child recall past events:

1. Rephrase the question. Say to her, “Tell me 3 awesome things that happened at school today.” “Now, tell me 3 not-so-awesome things you did at school today.” By putting a number in your request, you are helping your child understand that there is an end in sight. She doesn’t have to sit there forever talking about the past.
2. Help your child understand past, present, and future. At school, she most likely has access to a board that says, yesterday, today, tomorrow. You can set up that same system at home. On a wall or on the fridge, place the words yesterday/past, today/present, and tomorrow/future. Encourage your child to write down the corresponding days under those headings.
3. Use a visual daily schedule and a calendar. The daily schedule is to help her keep track of what is happening in detail. At the end of each day, have your child review what she did during her day. Even if your child is non-verbal, she can still participate in this activity. She can point to each event in her schedule. The calendar should also be used to explain future and past days. Encourage her to cross off days every evening, and discuss that those days are now in the past. You can even use the calendar to talk about future events, past activities, and what is happening today.
4. Ask the teacher to fill in a quick form that explains what your child did in school. This is especially helpful if your child is non-verbal or has challenges with conversations. You can even create a fill-in-the-blank document, make photocopies of it, and ask the teacher or aide to give you a filled-in copy every day. Your child’s teacher is incredibly busy, but explain how helpful this form would be so that you can effectively communicate with your child.

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