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Establishing morning routines for the sensory challenged

Mornings can be rough for the best of us. For a child who is sensory challenged, it can be particularly difficult to get going in the morning and be ready for school on time. Establishing predictable routines with clear expectations can help your child stay organized and reduce the conflict that can arise when you and your child become stressed.

Alarming: Some children need time to themselves before they can handle being around other people, even family members. Get your children their own alarm clocks, or two, so they can take responsibility for themselves. This can help reduce confrontations that may occur with repeated parental reminders to get out of bed. Another way to get going in the morning is to wake up your mouth. Try a mint sucking candy or drinking from a bottle with a sports top.

Music to match the mood: Play rock music with a heavy beat to get your child up and running. Calming classical music is a good choice for soothing the school jitters and hyper-responsive children.

Slow movers: Set a timer as your child completes his morning routine to help him manage time. For example, if he seems to get lost in the shower, set the timer for 10 minutes and make it clear that he is expected to be out of the shower when time is up.

Wanderers: If your child seems to be wandering around aimlessly in the morning, or seems unsure of what he should be doing, create a visual organizer such as a flow chart with pictures to show what to do and where to go next. Alternate an easy or fun activity with ones that are more difficult or are dreaded. Include your children in the process by having them draw the pictures for the visual organizer, attaching the Velcro dots and sequencing the pictures.

Rewards (not bribes!): Make a sticker chart and award a sticker for specific challenging target tasks. For example, getting out of bed independently, getting out of the shower in a timely fashion or putting pajamas in the laundry. Decide with your child how many stickers he needs to earn a small prize.

Blog written by Aviva Goldwasser, MS, OTR and Chaye Lamm-Warburg, MA, OTR, Director POTS

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