Young children thrive with routines, but for kids with sensory modulation difficulties, the difference in their abilities when you support them with routines is amazing.
Adults thrive with routines as well, we just don’t think about it. Try going through your morning routine, for example, in a different order. Drink your coffee before OR after your shower. Start a new job in a new field. Take a different way home each day of the week. I will bet that you will forget to do something important or be less efficient than you anticipated. Our kids with sensory modulation issues feel like that when we give them fewer routines than they need. In my sessions with very disregulated kids, I try to always use a supportive greeting routine and an ending routine to help them through the transitions. Some children need more routines when going through life changes such as the addition of a new sibling or starting a new school.
Children with sensory modulation issues struggle to keep their alertness and responsiveness at that “just right” level where they can function well. Novelty is stimulating to the brain, and some children struggle with getting back to that calm state with minor novelty, such as changing breakfast cereals or toothpaste brands. Some can handle that level, but when many changes happen at once, they add up to internal chaos. In my sessions with very disregulated kids, I try to always use a familiar greeting and ending routine to help them through the transition states. Some children need additional routines in their lives when facing changes such as a new sibling or starting a new school. Routines help them anticipate what will happen and how it will happen, and in what sequence it will happen. If they have language processing issues, it reduces the number of times they have to ask “What did you say?” or forget a multiple-step direction.
Life is a series of unexpected events, so even the most consistent routines will be broken. Your child will not become a robot by having a few more healthy routines. He may even sleep and eat better when he is in a more modulated state. You may see more language or more mature language skills emerging.