My child is 14 years old and really struggles to get out of bed and get himself ready. We have tried making checklists and use alarm clocks. He has to be constantly reminded and prompted to brush his teeth, eat breakfast, etc. The routine remains the same everyday but he never catches on. How can we help him become more independent and do these things in the mornings without being told?
It is hard for most teens to get up in the morning and get moving. There are several different supports that may be used to help your 14 year old get ready to begin a new day. A book can be provided for him or he can make his own book showing the steps to get him ready to begin his day. A mini-schedule is another tool to use, very similar to a checklist in that it provides structure to the steps that need to be completed. Pictures with words should be used in the mini-schedule in order to make it different from the simple checklist which did not work in the past. If preferred and according to your son’s ability, the pictures may be eliminated. Identify a motivator that your teen may have or do after he has completed his morning routine within the timeframe you choose.
Add the motivator and the time he must be ready to his book and schedule to remind him that when he completes the tasks to get ready in the morning he will receive or get to do something he really likes. It may be something special to eat, music to listen to, the ability to play a game on a smartphone or anything that he finds rewarding. Also try to use less talking to tell him what to do. Rather, show him or point to the item on the schedule. Talking and prompting may only provide desired attention and actually reinforce NOT doing his routine. You may use specific praise as he completes each task and remind him about his reward when he finishes on time.
A mini-schedule is a schedule for part of a day which outlines a specific activity or set of activities. A motivator is an item, food, or activity that the child finds rewarding enough to complete requested tasks in order to receive. A motivator should not be given throughout the day, but only when the requested behavior is displayed. The book or book activity is a book that is either already made or one that the child makes to be ready before/after he completes the requested behaviors and shows/tells each required step of the task and the rewards that will occur when the task is completed.
Tools appropriate for children ages 3-5, 6-10, 11-13, 14-17, 18+
Planning Effort: Moderate
Difficulty Level: Moderate
Ability to understand pictures, words and objects. Ability to understand delayed gratification/rewards.
- Identify each required step to finish the morning routine. Choose the time he must be finished by in order to receive his reward.
- Identify with your child motivating activities, food or items that he would like and be willing to earn.
- Gather the pictures from the resources to make the mini-schedule of each required step to finish the morning routine.
- Make the mini-schedule. Remember to add the time he must complete his routine and the reward at the end of the schedule. If desired, make your own or use those provided in the resources to make additional mini-schedules for teeth brushing or showering. These additional mini-schedules may be (may want to laminate so they are waterproof) permanently kept in the bathroom.
- Use the same pictures from the mini-schedule to have your son make a book showing what he should do each morning or use/adapt the premade book found in the resource section of this answer. Remember to include the time and motivators in the book.
- Gather the motivating items, activities, and food. Keep them together and easily accessible for use each morning.
- Read the book and introduce the mini-schedule and rewards with your son at least one day before you are going to begin.
- Use less prompting and verbal language. Let the pictures and schedules tell him what to do. When needed show him a picture of the step and the reward.
Documents & Related Resources:
Mini-Schedule: Getting Ready for Bed (related answer on this site)
Mini-Schedule: Tooth brushing (related answer on this site)
setbc.org (website resource for pictures/icons)
visualaidsforlearning.com (website resource for visual aids)
do2learn.com (website resource for pictures)