Waking up on the wrong side of the bed

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Have you ever woken up on the wrong side of the bed?  From the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep, everything just seems to go wrong. You might even be afraid to work on a new project, cook dinner, or touch anything for that matter, because with your kind of luck today, it might just fall apart.

Your child feels the same way from time to time.

If your child wakes up grumpy—and with some children this happens often—it may create the foundation for the rest of his day.

Sometimes, as adults, we are able to say to ourselves, “You know what? I am going to turn this around.  It’s not serving anyone.”  We may listen to music, do yoga, exercise, or just make an executive decision to get out of the doldrums.

Children with autism may not have these same self-regulation skills to turn that frown upside down.  They may not have the coping skills to handle their bad mood.

Instead, they may cry, scream, bang their head, hit you, or escape by crawling under the covers.

This is where your awesome parenting skills come in.

Here’s how you can help your child get in a better frame of mind so the rest of the day goes smoother.  You, your child, and of course his teacher, will have a better day because of it.

Here is a 4-step-system for restarting your child’s day:

1. Stay extra calm.

Today is the day for you to be extra patient with your child. Try not to go down the rabbit hole with him. If he is feeling frustrated and grumpy, now is not the time to get more annoyed. Take a deep breath—seriously, take a deep breath—and try to be there fully and calmly for your child. It’s only with your patience and relaxed attitude that he has a chance of calming himself down. He will most likely feed off your energy. This may require you to talk softer or in a lower tone. You may have to take an extra few minutes this morning to focus on creating a serene atmosphere. Relaxation starts with you, so model this skill.

2.  Recognize and acknowledge that your child is having a hard time.

Let him know that you understand that he is going through a challenging time. Even if your child is non-verbal, you can still talk to him about his emotions. Say things like, “I know you are feeling frustrated buddy. Let’s sit quietly and breathe for a few minutes.” Then model this skill of breathing for him.

Sometimes, just the simple act of acknowledgement can make your child feel better. Behavior is communication, and if your child doesn’t think you understand how he is feeling, this can make the behavior worse.

3. Review the schedule.

Visual schedules or important.  Whether this a picture schedule or a hand-written schedule, your child thrives on knowing what is coming up in his day.

It is easy to forget how beneficial visual tools can be. However, it is so important to keep in mind that many children with autism most likely make sense of their environment by using visual prompts. Maybe on these challenging mornings he forgot what day of the week it is. Maybe he is confused and thinks it is the weekend, but then you asked him to get ready for school. Maybe he is stuck, and doesn’t know what to do next.

Show him his schedule and calmly review the day’s expectations with him. This simple step of reviewing his schedule can turn his day around for the better.

4.  Meet his sensory needs.

Often, children have a very difficult time regulating their bodies and figuring out what they need to get motivated in the mornings.  You know what you need to get moving in the mornings.  It may be a cup of coffee, hitting snooze 5 times, running on the treadmill, or sitting quietly watching the morning news.

For your child it may be bouncing on a ball, running back and forth, listening to classical or dance music, or getting some big hugs. Maybe he needs to jump on the trampoline, crawl through a tunnel, or just sit quietly for an extra 10 minutes.  Once again, you will have to play detective, but it is essential that you try to meet your child’s sensory needs especially first thing in the morning.

With this 4-step-system under your tool belt, you are setting you and your child up for a successful day. You are an awesome parent and you are taking the steps to make your home autism friendly!

The Social Skills Workbook for Children and Teens with Autism

Does your child have challenges with conversations, making friends, and understanding social rules?

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