Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The 'Drag to School' Morning Routine

This is a "Best of the Best" Post.

School is a drag. Literally.

I'm lucky because being a father, I only have to cope with the school morning routine on my days off. In those instances, I'm a novelty and the kids behave (a little) for me. My wife however has to deal with it every day - and it's not unusual for me to get an early morning phone call asking me to "tell my children something" or clarify "did you say that they could wear [insert ridiculous article of clothing here] to school today?".

I'm sure that getting ready for school is difficult with neurotypical kids but for children on the spectrum, it's enough to make you give up the "rat race" and home school instead.

Waking Up and Getting Dressed
Unless it was a late night the night before, we usually don't have too much trouble getting the boys to wake up. Insomnia is however, commonly associated with Aspergers, so depending upon your particular child, they may wake up but have difficulty doing much else.

For us, getting dressed is a nightmare. My children will often forget non-visible parts of their uniform, like underpants. You might think that your children are flouting your authority by not wearing them but it's more likely to be simply forgetfulness.

As an adult, I can clearly remember times in my childhood - and going all the way up to fifth grade at school where I forgot my underwear. In particular, this happened on sports days when I was already putting my PE uniform underneath my clothes. I'd be concentrating on what I needed to wear and would forget the essentials. It was embarrassing at school and I wasn't happy about it. I certainly didn't do it to be funny or to irritate my parents.

So... before you start to get annoyed at your children for these simple mistakes. Take a deep breath and ask yourself if they aren't already stressed out enough by it.

There's also the matter of finding the uniforms and the issues of fine motor skills. That's right, aspies often have difficulty with fine motor skills on things like buttons. Finding things is difficult too because many aspies have terrible organisational skills.

Finally, there are distractions like rules, TV, siblings, breakfast and toys. My youngest tends to have rules about everything and can get into a tizz if he doesn't have breakfast BEFORE he gets dressed. That was a good rule when he was younger and couldn't eat breakfast without spilling it all over himself but now that he can, it just gets in the way of things. It's better to have breakfast as a "reward" for when you're changed than to allow it to slow down the whole morning routine.

A note for dads. Don't be tempted to do cool things for breakfast on weekends. I put honey on my son's breakfast on Saturday and Sunday one weekend. From that point onwards he insisted that he have honey on it every day. It was bad enough when it was simply making his uniform sticky but then when it suddently ran out, it caused chaos, a meltdown and a refusal to go to school until breakfast was served "properly". My wife gave me hell for that one.

Some helpful rules
Some of the best morning rules you can enact with your spectrum children when getting ready for school are;
  • ALL Clothes to be laid out on their floor in a "body pattern" the night before - with inner layers (underwear etc) on TOP.

  • Only one child is allowed in the bathroom at any one time.

  • No toys, books or other non-clothing items to be handled before you are dressed.

  • Dressing to occur in (separate) bedrooms only, away from the distractions of siblings, TV and breakfast.

  • No breakfast until you pass clothing inspection.

Yes, I know it all sounds a little rigid but that's exactly what children with aspergers need. Routines and Rules.


Marita said...

Rules and routines.

Since my girls have started school we have the get dressed, then breakfast rule.

Once they have had breakfast, brushed their teeth, packed their bag, done their hair, then they can watch TV.

Thank goodness for ABC Kids and their short 5-10minute TV shows in the morning. The girls get the chance to watch a 'whole show' before heading to school.

My husband likes to watch the news in the morning and sometimes the girls wake up before he is finished. Once the news is over he tosses the remote to the awake child and leaves them to it. No matter how often I tell him to 'Turn it off' he still gives the kids the remote. On mornings where the TV is on before the rest of the routine has been completed there is utter chaos.

Sarah said...

I liked what you said about having rules and routines for children on the spectrum. However, I think some of these rules could apply to children that are not on the spectrum. For example a child who has ADD or ADHD it would be a good idea to have that child away from distractions as well so he/she could get ready for school on time and not be distracted by other "things" or people. I only have a 2 year old little girl and she doesn't have Asperger's Syndrome like I do or any type of Autism, or ADD or ADHD for that matter, so she isn't in school yet, so I don't have any experience yet of what its like to get her ready for school right now. In a way also though at least some of these rules could apply to all children. I think all children need to have rules, routines, and structure for daily life.

mrsmiller26 said...

My son has AS and his very high functioning, but every AS kid is different and all need rules and routine, like you said. Some of what you said fits my son to the tee. I have laid out his cloths like that for years, but now he will be 13 in Aug, and my husband says I have to have him be more independent. I see his point. I can't be doing this into his teens. I'm worried though. He is slow enough in the morning even with my help....

mrsmiller26 said...

Much of yuor experieince fits my son to a tee, and some is different. But every kid with AS is different. All need rule and routine. My son is on the high functioning end of teh spectrum, but soemtimes I think that makes it harder because since it isn't obvious that he has a disability, people just think he is weird. I have laid out his clothes exactly like that for years. But now that he'll be turnign 13 my husband says we need to make him more self sufficient and make him handle these tings on his own. I worry though, he is slow enough in the morning even with my help. He wants to be a chef. But I'm scared for him. His reaction time is slower than the norm.

Stacey @ Entropified said...

Your quick comment about Aspie's having insomnia was the first time I heard that. It describes my 18 year old. I'll have to let him know of his additional Aspie trait :)

Anonymous said...

We have a similarly rigid morning routine, but in our house we eat breakfast first and get dressed last. It's the only way to start the school day looking presetable. Otherwise, breakfast gets smeared all over the school clothes! Timers help keep my son on track. We set it 5 minutes shorter than the time alloted so if he gets distracted the first alarm acts as a warning to get back on task.

Anonymous said...

This is our (Me & my daughters [8] ) morning routine,
(i dress beforehand and my husband is usually already working by then)
Knock on Faye's bedroom door. Walk into bedroom.
Open curtains while she wakes up
Pull covers back as she stands up
Tell her to go for a wee
Walk to bathroom with her and help her with toileting.
Go downstairs into kitchen.
She watches arthur (on tv at 7:15) while I toast some bread.
She puts her own bread on toast
Go back upstairs
Help her get dressed into uniform. (t-shirt . Underwere. Socks and trousers)
She then brushes her teeth herself
Go back dowmstairs
Help faye put her shoes on
Lock door. Walk down path to the car
Drive to se center across town
Count ALL the green lights
Walk up to school gates.
Say 'bye bye' and wave
Get back in car
Drive home
Treat myself to a cup of coffee. Crumpets. And watch daybreak
Go to work at 9:15

Thanks for reading

Miguel Palacio said...

Thanks for posting. Routines can be good. xP