As a pediatrician, I work with all children including those with disabilities. I hear how difficult it can be to get out the door in the morning. In this blog, I share tips for creating a morning routine to get out the door on time and with less stress. Most children do better when there are routines that are predictable and consistent, including children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Learning a morning routine can be especially challenging for children with disabilities. They often need more directions, practice, and patience to learn these skills. Each family will need to change these tips to work in their home.
- Have your child pack his/her backpack and place it by the door at night. Make sure homework and projects are in the backpack. Creating a homework folder makes this easier.
- When possible, pack lunches the night before.
- Help your child pick out clothes the night before. This helps stop disagreements about what to wear.
- Start backwards. Figure out what time you need to leave. Decide how long the morning routine will take. Give 10 to 15 minutes of extra time. That amount of time determines when to wake your child up.
- Pleasant wake up. Have the alarm play a favorite song or wake your child up gently with a hug and cuddle. Harsh alarms or abrupt wake ups can start the day off poorly.
- Create a get ready routine: Wake Up, Get dressed, Eat breakfast, Brush teeth, Review the day and backpack, Leave for school.
- Get dressed first as this is often the biggest hurdle in the morning
- Post a visual chart or checklist of each step. Laminate it or hang it in a plastic folder. Your child can use a dry erase marker to check things off when done.
- Can use pictures of your child doing each step
- If your child is more interested in music, create a playlist of songs. Each song goes with a different task in the morning routine.
- Use a timer showing your child the time left for each step.
Getting Out the Door
- Use a silly sound (a wolf howl) to warn your child 5 minutes before it is time to leave.
- At first, you will need to use the sound and a warning “five more minutes”. Eventually just the silly sound will work.
- Use a different silly sound (duck quacking) for when it is time to leave.
- At first, you will need to use the sound and a warning “Time to go”.
Make It Fun
- Praise your child for completing steps in the routine. At first, the praise should be IMMEDIATE.
- Create rewards for following the routine. This can be a sticker chart or small prizes.
- Your child can do a favorite activity as a reward if finish early. This can be very motivating.
- No TV or tablet until your child is dressed and ready for school. If your child is ready early, he/she could watch a short clip.
Stick to It
- Creating a new routine or habit takes 3 weeks. Work towards the same goal for 3 weeks.
- Once you have mastered the morning routine, create a bedtime or homework routine.
Additional Information and References:
- 8 Ways to Make Mornings Easier. Understood.
- Free Sample Schedules for Reliable Family Routines. ADDitude Magazine.
- The Importance of Family Routines. HealthyChildren.org.
- This Sample Schedule May Just Save your Sanity. ADDitude Magazine.