Children with disabilities are at least as likely as their mainstream peers to have completely exhausted their capacity for self-control, to require immediate downtime, or have meltdowns after a long day at school. Creating an after-school routine can help students with disabilities make an easier transition from school - or transportation - to home and reduce tension between children and parents.
Although most of us recognize the need to unwind after a school or work day, it does not often benefit a child to transition from a structured program to a completely unstructured afternoon and evening at home. A great deal depends on a child's personality, stamina, and resilience. Basic plans that benefit a child with a disability are often the same that are helpful for their younger and older siblings.
Of course, home routines do not need to run on military precision, but it can be helpful to create a plan and a reminder for age-appropriate routines that do not intrude on a child's sensibilities. Often, the best plan is a collaboration between a parent and child during a less stressful part of the day. Children with disabilities may carry notes from school about their activities or behavior at school every day. It may be better to leave a period of time at arrival for a child to acclimate to the security of their home without school intruding, especially if negative reports are common.
Of course, adults can get a head start by thinking about what they would like their child to do. Hanging up coats and unloading backpacks and lunch containers; washing hands before an after-school snack; sharing papers to be signed or notices of project due dates and assignments; and putting the finished assignments back to be taken to school the next day. Working backwards from what we would like to see in the morning can save a child from last-minute stress. Of course, life is not perfect even with a great after-school routine, and very often families and children with disabilities can be distracted by unexpected events.
It is important to include pleasant steps in after-school routines; expressing happiness that the child is at home; and admiring or acknowledging the great effort that the child expended during the school day. Taking a moment to exchange hugs can be a great habit for the child and the parent. Very often, the best way to change a child's habit is to change our own behavior. It is always helpful to remember to smile, to exercise good manners, and be patient. Even during our busiest times, the greatest gift we can give may be allowing an extra five seconds for smiling, saying something positive, or just waiting.
A great deal of planning goes into getting our children ready for school, usually due to the pressures of work schedules and other responsibilities for parents or students. What may not be obvious is that it is beyond the abilities of most children and teens to organize themselves for school in the morning if they do not have an after-school routine that sets them up for success. It is unrealistic to expect children or teens to be naturally organized when very few young adults develop a highly organized morning or after-work routine unless they have grown up with a good-natured and organized parent.
Browse at your public library, local bookstore, or online retailer for books on organization and homework help like TIME 4 KIDS and TEENS: Time Management Student Workbook or Time management & organizational skills for students (and their parents too...): An organized student means less stress, more free time, and better grades!!!.