Many parents of children with special needs come to educators with a common question:
“What is one of the best things I can do for my child to help them succeed both at home and at school?”
And one of the most common answers I give, even before addressing academic and behavioral needs, is this: I suggest parents build organization and have routines for their child, and themselves (the parents) for that matter!
A routine is extremely important for all children, particularly those with special needs. But, why? (And, how?!) I’ll address the “how” at another time, but for now, I think it’s important to understand the “why.”
Why Routines Are Vital To Success;
1; Routines Provide Security
Overall, providing consistent routines and an organized lifestyle gives kids a sense of security and fosters their development of self-discipline.
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This self-discipline will help your child learn to create their own routines as they grow that will help them find success in elementary school, middle and high school, and beyond. A sense of security is extremely important for everyone, but particularly kids, and even more so for kids with special needs.
Offering a predictable routine helps children feel safe and secure and ready to tackle new challenges and adventures. It helps kids control themselves in different environments because they are only managing one change at a time, and they have the routine to provide the stability they need in order to manage the change effectively.
We see this “safety net feeling” at work all the time when it comes to Special Education Tutoring. As children embark on a new school year, or perhaps even a new school, their potential for anxiety lessens because they know their tutor will be there to help!
2; Routine Decreases the Fear of the Unknown
Yes, most people are afraid of something. But one thing common among many people of all ages is a fear of the unknown.
A fear of the unknown could be as simple as a new food for lunch or a new place to go after school. And it could be as big as a divorce or a sibling leaving for college. While creating routines doesn’t eliminate the fear, or prevent the “unknown” from happening, it does help your child manage it because everything else in their world will still feel stable.
This routine will help your child manage their emotions and behaviors when they’re faced with one of these unknowns, whether big or small. By having the security of the routine, children can face the unknowns in life with the comfort of the known in their corner: their routine. When everything else feels “normal” to them, the unknown becomes more manageable because they will still feel the comforts of everything else in their world.
Furthermore, when change occurs in the context of a familiar routine, it’s much easier to manage. For example, if a parent needs to suddenly leave for a business trip, if routines are already in place, even if the other parent, or another relative, becomes the one reinforcing the routines, your child will be able to handle the change much better simply because they will still have their “normal routine” in place.
3; Is there such a thing as TOO much routine?
Can you get too much of a good thing, especially when it comes to routine? Maybe – just like “rules are made to be broken,” routines will be/need to be broken, too! Allowing real life situations to change routines is helpful in teaching children how to adjust and respond to situations.
As we all know, life is unpredictable, so teaching children to deal with this unpredictability, in as much of a controlled situation as possible, is a great learning opportunity. For example, rain may cancel an outdoor activity or staying up late for special family time are both healthy and “real life” ways to help kids see that while routines are helpful, there’s also a time and place to break that routine. Take these opportunities to talk to your kids about how life can be unpredictable and that change is okay. Then, get right back to that routine!
Hopefully understanding the “why” of the importance of routines will help you develop routines and organization that works for your (likely busy) family.
Now, to tackle the “what” and “how” to get this so-called “routine” up and running in your house….
What are some routines you’ve established in your household?
~ Diana Chase