Behavior Management During Holiday Breaks and Free Time (Part Two)

Wed, December 19, 2018

Silhouette of 2 adults and 2 children on a winter background - Part 2A few weeks ago, Project GROW Supervisor Elizabeth Asen shared Part One of behavior management techniques and activities that may help families create structure and routine during school breaks. Below you will find Part Two. Have you tried any of the tips? Feel free to comment on our Facebook page or email communications [at], and we will feature your stories on our website.  


Break Management Tips for Families with I/DD:

  1. Continue communication with friends. Provide opportunities for your child to socialize with friends from school during breaks. Ask your child if there are certain friends they would like to see. For children that use limited words to speak, take a class photo and ask them to point to a classmate they are interested in seeing. For people who are not as keen on playdates, you can arrange for your child to have a pen pal. Have your child select a friend, and they can write each other letters, draw pictures, or type emails informing each other about their activities. This is an excellent way to work on relationship building, storytelling, writing skills, and to stay connected with classmates while not in the classroom.
  2. Take control over electronics. School breaks can be a time when children think they have free reign over the iPad, computer, or video games. It is important to teach children how to manage free time and to monitor use of electronics. If you can, try to keep electronics in a place where only you have access to them (unless your child uses the technology as a means to communicate). You can also work with your child on integrating select technology time into the schedule.   
    In Project GROW, we talk about the concept of “Grandma’s Law.” Grandma’s Law is the utilization of “first, then sentences.” For example, “First you clean your room, then you can go on the iPad.” You are not saying “no” to your child; you are giving the child a clear instruction of expected behavior so that he/she may earn what they desire when you feel it is the right time. You are allowing your child the opportunity to have what he/she wants, but you are providing the framework. 
  3. Take photos of your time together and make a journal. Many children enjoy looking at or taking photos. When you are planning your day with your child and reviewing the schedule, you can also talk about different photo opportunities for the day. The child can be in charge of taking particular photos, and you can work on writing captions of the day together. At the end of the break, your child will have a photo diary to show to teachers and classmates to demonstrate their activities during the break. Again, this is an excellent opportunity for students to engage in creative activities, while also taking ownership of a special project.  
  4. Create a team. It can be challenging for parents who work during the day to coordinate and plan their child’s activities. Create a list of people who can help you carpool, take your kids out, or provide you with respite so that you know that your child is taken care of. If you are leaving your child with someone you do not know, make sure to include a list of your child’s likes, dislikes, preferred activities, behaviors, allergies, medical needs, and important numbers. 
  5. Prepare your child for going back to school. As mentioned, school breaks can be challenging because they are not routine. As soon as we become used to the break, it is time to go back to school. Try as best as you can to keep your child’s morning and bedtime routines as consistent and as close to school hours as possible. This will help to ensure your child is rested, while also setting them up for successful mornings and evenings when school begins again.  
  6. Relax! For some children, relaxing or sitting still does not come naturally. Teach your child that breaks can be a time to unwind and decompress. Find calming activities that your child enjoys and encourage them to take some time for themselves. If your child has difficulty keeping his/her body calm, set a timer that indicates when your child can take a movement break. 

Some children may need to be taught how to relax. Model relaxation by engaging in deep breathing and being in your child’s vicinity as you partake in a relaxing activity yourself. If your children observe ways in which you relax, they will learn from your example. 

Let’s GROW together! What are ways in which your family maintains routine and structure during free time?  

Happy Holidays! 


Project GROW will be offered in Manhattan during early evenings on Thursdays from December 13th through February 28th in English and in Spanish. Upcoming classes also occur in the Bronx and Staten Island. Are you a school or day program? We can come to you! For more information, please contact projectgrow [at]