The kids have headed back to school after the holidays with a renewed vigor for how fun school actually is after 2 weeks at home with family. It is a also a great relief to most of us parents, finally back to the structure and schedule of the school day. For autism parents this has even more meaning. Many children with autism require structure to stay grounded and engaged, and that structure is hard to maintain with all the events of the holiday season. Eating at irregular times, eating irregular food, eating in irregular places. All of this irregularity or variance from the usual schedule can be very stressful for children with autism and cause a lot of anxiety which then triggers challenging behaviors. I am sure many of you like me, opt to not even attend family holiday functions because the repercussions can last for days.
So hallelujah, school is back in session. Breakfast at the same time everyday, lunch at the same time and in the same place everyday. Whether that means a quiet lunch in the classroom or sitting in the office or hallway or maybe even in the frey of the cafeteria if your child can cope with that. Whatever that routine is for your child, it is so very important and gives a springboard to work on other goals. Without the routine, all bets are off and goals go on the back burner. It becomes about just getting through the day without major incident and being able to keep your child grounded enough so they can sleep at night.
Lack of routine causes stress for these kids and stress can have an impact on their overall health and wellbeing. Stress can cause sleep disturbance, blood sugar imbalance which affects mood, poor digestion and lowered immunity. I have found that using calming teas have helped buffer the tough transitions throughout the school year. A simple tea blend of chamomile, skullcap and lemon balm 3x/day can help to strengthen and nourish the nervous system and works as a mild relaxant. This family of herbs are called nervine relaxants and they act by strengthening and restoring nervous system tissues. My child loves the ritual of tea time but for those who don't you can make a tea and add it to soups or sauces or even jellies for dessert. Be sure to use tea fresh and consume immediately to ensure it's potency.