Back to School - Easing back into routine (particularly for families who have children with special needs).

What you need to know:

  • We have a love/hate relationship with routines

  • Extra time and planning are your friend

  • Even if your kiddo is returning to their school, it might feel really different for them

  • My “Tell the Story” framework (

 has tips on how to coach your child through new experiences.


After a lazy summer, people can have mixed feelings about the beginning of the year. When my kids were little, I couldn’t WAIT for the routine to get started. Now that they’re older, I could use a little more time just kicking back. But some folks are the opposite – it just depends. 


Regardless of how you feel about starting a routine back up again, it definitely requires some extra energy to get back in the groove again, and it’s definitely worth doing. Here are some things I’ve done and that I recommend.


Schedule less

There are SO MANY opportunities available to us and to our kids! Sometimes it can feel like everyone is hanging out without you (especially on social media!). We feel like we have to join in on activities all the time. We don’t. Young kids – and particularly kids with special needs – really benefit from some time at home doing their own thing. Especially during the middle of an adjustment to a new routine. Don’t try and schedule everything all at once. It’s ok to add stuff gradually as you see your child is ready.


Add in extra time to get ready

EXTRA TIME IS YOUR FRIEND! There is nothing worse than trying to rush a toddler or a preschooler through a routine! (come to think of it, this holds for teens and adults too!). Setting your clock or your alarm ahead a few extra minutes will give you the space that you and your kiddo need to not feel stressed during transitions. A rule of thumb that I used to use when my kids were very young: DOUBLE the amount of time you think you need for any single task (think: putting on shoes, getting things together, walking to the car, getting into the car).


It’s all new (even when it’s the same)

Remember that school/daycare might feel completely different to your child even if they are going back to the same place!We sometimes forget that kids don’t know how to adjust their expectations – which is something we do automatically. We adults understand what will stay the same and what will likely change from year to year, from place to place. But our kiddos don’t have practice with this! We need to help them to understand specifically what will change and what will stay the same. For example, there will be some new kids and some familiar kids in their class. There will some new teachers and some familiar teachers. New classroom, same playground, etc.


I use a framework that I call “Tell the Story” to coach kids through new (and familiar) experiences. It’s a simple process that anyone can do anytime, and it’s part of what I teach in my Toddler Talk Online Program for parents. I hope you’ll check it out for more strategies and tips on getting into a good routine with your little one.


Wishing you all the best for a good “re-entry” to the routine!