As summer comes to an end, it's time to shift gears and prepare yourself for fall. With the change of the seasons comes a change in routine, something that can throw off the comfort of a child with social or behavioral issues. Luckily, we have some tips to help smooth the transition and make those school mornings a bit more successful.
Lay It All Out
To start, you'll want to be sure to lay it all out--both physically and mentally! Everyone benefits from setting needed items out ahead of time, such as an outfit and a healthy lunch. This eases the morning chaos for both children and their parents, especially if the parents need to get to work. However, a child on the autism spectrum would also benefit from being told ahead of time what to expect in the morning. To do this, create a visual plan, such as a storyboard with pictures detailing the steps in the routine. This will help your child with sequencing and remove some of the anxiety over making forced choices in a hurry.
Provide Opportunities for Ownership
While too many choices can overwhelm a child with attention or sensory issues, being given a few choices in a safe and caring space can make a world of difference. Start with what your child would like to wear, giving a couple of options the night before. Be sure to avoid sensory triggers if you know your child has them, such as scratchy fabric or tags. Your child could also help pack their lunch with foods they are familiar with.
To further allow them ownership over the morning (and avoid any potential meltdowns), you could give them responsibility for a few key tasks, such as brushing their teeth or putting on their shoes. This will help your child feel self-sufficient and start the day off on the right foot. Remember to give yourself enough time for this, however, because frustration can ensue if the child is rushed!
Eat a Healthy Breakfast
Finally, be sure to plan a healthy and complete, protein-rich breakfast to jump-start the day. Even if your child has trouble sitting at the table and prefers to eat in their room or while playing with toys, it's important that they get the proper fuel for a successful school day. Be flexible about how you manage this--even some fruit and hard boiled eggs in the car is better than running on empty.
Getting out the door with a child who struggles doesn't have to be a challenge. If you plan ahead, allow room for ownership, and make sure to fill the tank with healthy fuel, you can set your child on the path to a great school day.