We are 2 weeks away from welcoming the
month of Ramadhan, a holy month for Muslims around the world as our journey of
spiritual purification begins.
The most special practice done in this holy
month is the act of fasting. Specifically in Malaysia, we see children from as
young as 7 years old start getting trained to fast for as long as they can. For
children of typical development, it would be easier to explain to them the idea
and reason behind fasting and to get them to just do it immediately when
Ramadhan begins. However, this common method may not work for children on the
Children with autism may not comprehend the
reason for them to fast, let alone knowing how to actually do it. For some of
them, the sudden change in their daily meal routine may be an overwhelming
challenge to deal with.
So here are some general tips to help you
prepare a child with autism on how to successfully perform the act of fasting.
These tips can be implemented before Ramadhan arrives to ensure your child’s
Is my child ready?
Is your child able to tolerate
waiting especially for a highly preferred choice (i.e.: food/toys/YouTube
video, etc.)? Is your child able to understand basic “First Then” instruction (i.e.:
“First circle time then snack”)? Is
your child able to understand and follow basic verbal & visual
instructions? If you answer “No” or “Not really”
to any of the above points, consider teaching or helping them to strengthen the
skill(s) required first before starting the fasting training to ensure greater
do I need?
Social story to explain about
fasting. Timer, “Wait” visual, “First
Then” chart. Ultimate reward: Your child’s
favourite food. Offering this as a reward for iftar (the breaking of fast) is highly recommended to
help them associate the expectation (i.e.: fasting) with the reward (i.e.: pizza).
This will then increase the success rate for the next repeated practices. Now,
it is important to remember that this will not be the best time to expose your
child to any NEW food. Our goal should be on teaching them to fast, not to
increase their food repertoire.
down the skill:
need to start at a level where your child is successful at.
Read the social story
Clarify expectation through the
use of visuals and include the use of a timer to foreshadow the waiting time
until it is time to eat.
Communicate the reward your
child is “waiting” for.
You may start by expecting your
child to fast for as early as 5 minutes (this duration may vary from one child
to another depending on their current skill set). As your child “wait”/fast, he
or she can be redirected to other activities to occupy their time. The timer
should beep at the same time as the adhan
(call to prayer) at sunset.
When the timer beeps, do
encourage your child to listen to adhan
if you live near a mosque or visually on a TV to help them understand that
during Ramadhan, fasting ends when we hear the adhan at sunset. If your child is able to tell the time, it would
also be advantageous to utilise this skill by telling the time of the adhan.
Then present the food to your
child immediately to build the positive association for fasting. It is highly
recommended that the time to receive the reward is not delayed.
Praise your child for fasting
and repeat steps 1-6 every day to increase practice.
Once your child is successful,
gradually increase the fasting period to eventually having them to start fasting
from the adhan that comes at dawn.
tips for success:
If your child seems to find it difficult to
fast for a longer period in a day, consider these options:
Go back to a previously
mastered duration and increase the practice at this level. Continue to reward
your child nonetheless.
Offer “meal pass” to allow your
child to communicate for a meal. This plan will need to be planned thoroughly.
Consider your child’s age and skill sets to ensure appropriate plan is put in
place. For example, an 8-year-old who had started fasting for the very first
time may find it challenging to complete their fast for 6 hours straight. At
this point, a “meal pass” can be utilised as an exchange for a meal which could
come in a small portion. Ideally, this meal should help your child to consume a
little amount of food so that the remaining hours left for fasting would be
easier to go through. This meal should not be to replace their “reward” meal;
otherwise, the fasting training will be negatively affected.
For the “ultimate reward”, consider using a
“My Fasting Tracking” chart to track your child’s fasting record. Big
non-edible reward can be offered in a weekly or monthly basis.
hope this guideline will help you in preparing your child to learn to fast