Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Behavior Update: Part 2 Why Having a Routine is the Key to Compliance

In the summer leading up to Josie starting kindergarten, I was a nervous wreck about getting all 3 girls up, dressed, fed, and out the door on time.  Mornings are hard!  Having to make everything happen when Josie is armed with her stubborn 'tude and a determination to resist my every directive is misery!

While I realize that Von Trapp Family Whistle Protocol is probably not realistic (Please tell me you understood this reference.  If not, click HERE and don't come back until you've watched the film in full entirety), I needed some sort of a plan so that my girls' school tardiness rap sheet doesn't land them in juvie before they even reach first grade.  

Individuals with cognitive delays thrive on routine.  Why?  The world moves at a faster pace than they can comfortably process.  Creating a routine and doing the same thing in the same order every day is a tool that offers individuals with developmental disabilities a sense of control.  With predictability comes comfort.  
You don't have to take my word for it.  My beloved Down syndrome expert, Dr. Skotko, writes about it in his book:  

Sometimes what we as parents perceive as stubbornness or non-compliant behavior is the child's way of putting on the brakes and saying "Whoa!  I don't know what's going on.  I don't know why you're insisting that I do this with such urgency and I'm not comfortable!  I'm confused!"

Here's where Josie's morning chart helps.  I broke down the morning routine into a few simple steps that she can easily understand.  I added a visual for each step because kids with Down syndrome generally learn best with visuals.  We wake up at the same time and we do the same steps in the same order every day.
Step 2 is very strategic.  Josie loves affection.  A hug is a great way to get her in the right frame of mind to want to cooperate.  Now that we've been using this chart for months, Josie no longer needs to hold the actual chart but she still references the steps.  Once she has completed the steps on her chart (we added cleaning up her books), she earns an incentive.  Most days, it's a singing animal that is restricted - it only comes out after the morning steps are complete and then it is put away again for the next morning (that way the novelty is preserved).  Another very powerful incentive is my phone - she loves to listen to one kid song on YouTube.

This may seem like a hassle but it quickly becomes habit and after a few weeks/months, the chart itself is no longer needed.  It's completely worth it to help the child work towards the same goal without a battle!

Tune in tomorrow when we talk about how to prepare a child for change when the standard "routine" needs to be modified.  We learned this lesson the HARD way!  


  1. Golly, I have some kids with no dx whatsoever who need this... more parents need to think like this for their kids!

  2. We learned the 'routine' lesson way too late in life. Routines are so crucial for Beth's peace and well being. We know that now. :(

  3. Thanks for sharing this - quite an eye opener for me. Read this last night, and this morning, when my 5 year old daughter with Down syndrome was about to throw a fit because I put something in the 'wrong' place, I just let her put it where it normally goes. But this time - instead of irritation - I felt like I understood her. Thank you so so much.