Morning routines for many families may be similar in the sense that everyone needs to get
ready and head out or start daily activities that need to be accomplished. A successful morning
routine however can differ between each family and that morning routine could make or break
how each one reacts and behaves and set the tone for the rest of the day!
Are you one that analyzes and plans your day? Are you one that does plan but feels that it could
be less stressful? Let us look at what can make your morning routine with an individual with
autism less stressful and avoid meltdowns.
1) Start with planning. Plan your timeline for the morning and day. Determine what needs
to be completed as part of your family’s daily expectations. Be positive!
2) Have a good nighttime routine so that the morning routine is smooth.
3) Write down a schedule: A visual list that breaks down the tasks can help you keep up
with what needs to be done. It also helps you NOT to forget what needs to be done.
4) Build in extra time for unexpected situations – this helps you to still be able to be on
time in case some tasks need more time to focus on.
5) Material prep: Plan clothes to be worn, and plan for a nutritious breakfast that needs to be
had. Keep in mind the preferences that each family member has so that if there is an
issue with what you have on their plate, you can alternate that with something they
would consume. Pick your battles.
6) Buy materials ahead of time so that you do not run out of basic materials that your
7) Delegate work for all the family members. Each person is to have his/her own set of
responsibilities that should be done, without multiple reminders. Have visual lists for
each of them if needed.
8) For your child with autism, provide choices for things such as clothing, breakfast, shoes,
etc. Give him/her a small list to also complete as part of his/her routine if appropriate.
9) Use a reinforcement system if needed: IF your child with autism needs the motivation to
complete any task, a token system can be used (check with your ABA team to help you
make one specific for your child). This system can be used for the nighttime routine as
10) If your child starts to fuss, provide choices. If no choice is being made, let your child
know that you would have to choose him or her if no response is made.
11) Continue to support getting ready and calmly ignore any fuss if done just for gaining
attention or trying to get out of doing something. Redirect to the task or another option
while using extinction (planned ignoring). Respond as needed and appropriate.
12) Do not engage in any heated verbal exchange or raise your voice. This does not help
anyone and only aggravates the situation. Calmly redirect and if the behavior of your
child escalates and begins to bother you, pause, and walk away for a few minutes to compose yourself.
Have your partner/spouse step in to continue getting your child ready for a few minutes.
13) Stay calm and neutral to continue working on the routines. If your child chooses to wear
sandals instead of shoes, consider allowing that and move on to avoid further problems.
Pick your battles.
14) Ensure that you rule out any medical considerations if your child continues to fuss and
starts having a meltdown. Not feeling well can be misconstrued as just being difficult, if
not expressed adequately. Reach out to your child’s physician if you suspect a medical
condition. Sending your child to a school/therapy center will not be a priority at this point.
15) If the meltdown is due to intolerance for something new that is introduced or
something that is not part of his/her routine, plan to introduce such things as a teaching
program to help build that tolerance, when things are not so hectic, and not during any
16) Discuss with your ABA team working on morning routines and building tolerance for
certain items/activities/following a schedule, making choices, etc.
17) Discuss with your ABA team having a parent BIP to support when behaviors do
escalate and it is hard to keep in mind what to do. Having something visual will help to
refer to during a crisis.
18) Do not worry in case the morning does not go too well as planned. Practice does help.
Reflecting on what went right and not so well is an important self-management skill that
needs to be cultivated to help improve how you function and how to make your
mornings less stressful and more enjoyable.
Best of luck! You’ve got this!