School Nights

School starts this week for many youngsters with autism, so the stress level at home is escalating. Families are dealing with transition issues and new schedules and reports from school and all the other challenges that arise at the beginning of school. By suppertime, patience is scarce and the to-do list seems impossibly long.

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No matter how tired and harried everyone is in the evenings, you may discover that taking some time to slow down, get organized, and make connections with your youngster with autism is an invaluable investment of time and energy. Remember that the goal is not perfection, just a decrease in stress for everyone. Here’s the bedtime round-up checklist to get you started.

1. CLOTHES. Does each person have a set of clean clothes? Do they need gym clothes or after school clothes or basketball league clothes? What about shoes, socks, underwear, coats, hats, etc.?

2. BODY. Clean head to toe in the evenings to prevent a morning rush. That means shower or bathe, wash hair, brush teeth, and even shave if needed.

3. BACK PACK. Put all homework, supplies, books, permission slips, lunch money, and other necessary items in back pack before going to bed.

4. CONNECTION. Take a few minutes for quiet interaction with your youngster with autism. This is important even if your youngster is non-verbal or does not seem to participate in the conversation. Read a story or talk about their day to help them make an emotional connection with you and wind down. Take time to help them review the schedule for the upcoming day, to discuss concerns, and to review rules and/or expectations – whether they seem to understand or not. And don’t forget to remind them of your love and support.

Granted, you don’t need one more thing to do – one more checklist. Instead of thinking of this checklist as a time thief, think of it as a 30 minute investment in contentment. We welcome your input. Share challenges and ideas based on your experiences or intuition. Just click on the comments button or send an e-mail to

NOTE TO READERS AND LISTENERS: I am Cathy Knoll, a board certified music therapist and long-time friend of many folks with autism. At we are committed to providing free, practical, everyday tips for making life better for people with autism. Feel free to send me an email with your thoughts or challenging situations or innovative solution. Send email to And don’t forget to check out our website for a wealth of ideas and a glimpse into the world of autism.

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