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Help Your Child With a Learning Challenge Adapt to Change

Children who have executive functioning disorder, attention issues, autism spectrum disorder, or other learning disabilities are often resistant to change. I believe this is likely because when things are orderly and predictable, they are more likely to function well. When things occur randomly, they are required to make decisions quickly and figure out how to respond to a new situation. These children need routine; unfortunately, every classroom is different and teachers frequently change the daily routine in order to keep their classroom interesting and challenging. Children with learning issues need additional support to do well when things are different from what they expect.

Several things may help these kids.

  • Ask your child’s teacher to give him a heads-up that things are going to be different the next day. If he receives an assignment sheet, his teacher could include additional information that tells all students what will be happening in class the next day. If that is not possible, they could tell your son who needs routine to expect a change the next day. This gives him time to consider how to best respond and how to be ready for class.
  • Your child may benefit from sitting near the teacher or near a “buddy” who will assist her when she is confused. She can eventually learn to look to see what other students are doing as a cue for what she needs to do; but, until she can do that for herself, having a friend help her makes sense of the confusion.
  • If you know your child has ADHD or an executive functioning disorder before starting school, consider waiting a year before starting him in school. Children normally gain more control over their educational environment as they grow older. Giving these particular children an extra year to prepare may be a great idea. They may be less affected by changes to their routine if they are a year older.


Providing advanced warning or a buddy to help children who resist changes to their routine can be very helpful. Eventually, these changes may not be so difficult because these children tend to get better at handling them as they grow older. If your child has an Individual Education Plan (IEP) or a 504 Plan, consider asking for help as part of their plan.

You can learn more about ADHD by reading Managing Middle School With ADHD.

For information on executive functioning read Executive Functioning: How It Affects a Student In School.

If your child is autistic, you might want to read Help Your Autistic Child Succeed in School.

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