Getting Back Into It: Returning to a Routine After Break for Young Adults on the Autism Spectrum or with Learning Differences

For many young adults in college or postsecondary transition programs, the winter break provides some much-needed time off. Breaks provide opportunities to visit and catch up with loved ones, go on fun trips, or just rest and recharge. For young adults in College Internship Program's (CIP) Transition Programs, it’s possible that the break also may include some challenges like regression or fatigue. Each student’s break experience is unique, but they all have one thing in common - breaks eventually comes to an end!


Getting Ready

The time leading up to returning to school may evoke a lot of feelings. Whether students are excited, anxious, or anything in between, there are steps they can take to best prepare for the transition back and return to a routine.


Re-establish a sleep schedule

Re-establishing a sleep schedule that aligns with students’ college or program schedules will help create less of a “shock” when they return to a full-time schedule. This also includes student’s night-time and morning routines. When they’re back on campus, do they shower at night or in the morning? How long do they need to sleep, and what time do they have to go to bed to get that amount? When do they need to have breakfast and be dressed to make it to their first module or class? Practicing their morning and night routines will help them feel established, even with new program schedules.


Maintain a schedule

If accessible, students should continue to create and review their schedules regularly. This can help reduce stress or anxiety about what they will be doing each day. Students can also prepare by having their schedule in a place that is easy to access when they feel unsure, like in an agenda, printout, or calendar app. Family members can help by holding daily meetings to discuss plans and create clear expectations and plans for the day and week ahead.


Connect with a peer

There may be feelings of anxiety surrounding re-establishing connections with peers once they’re back in their day-to-day routines. Encourage your young adult to reach out to at least one peer before returning so one connection is already made. Keeping things simple such as meeting up for coffee or to go to watch a movie helps with the probability that it will take place.


Review tools

Students use a variety of tools and strategies while at CIP to promote success. Whether those tools are apps, visual references, or task lists, it is best to have these ready and accessible before returning to programming. Make sure your young adult has their login information to all their accounts and that they are receiving the right notifications for each tool. Pulling out a favorite menu planning list or maintaining a chore chart can be helpful to all.


Remind students of previous progress

Sometimes a whole new schedule can seem daunting, and students may be resistant when they see a schedule that implies new expectations and responsibilities. How are they supposed to manage all this and maintain their routine? That is why it is best to use positive language and positive self-talk to review the progress students have made in previous terms. It is important to remind students that they have developed skills and accomplished goals before, and they can do it again. Look for even the smallest of successes and give genuine positive feedback.


Connect with their advisor

At CIP, students can talk with their Advisor before their return. It is a great time to discuss how their break went, including any challenges and accomplishments. Advisors can also help students review their goals for the term and explain what to expect for the first few days of programming. 


When Students Arrive Back

Once your young adult is back in college or a postsecondary transition program, continue to use positive language and promote self-care. The transition may be more exhausting than students expect. They may underestimate the energy it takes to restart a routine because “I’ve done it before.”


Parents, you can remind students of any previously identified coping strategies. Simple acknowledgments are okay - reminders that it’s okay to have alone time or go to bed a little early. It is also important to identify the people in their support network. Is it other family members? Close friends? Advisors or Counselors?


Here at CIP, their Advisor is a great place to start, but it may also be helpful to identify one or two other individuals that they can go to for support.


As with all transitions, the possibilities are exciting, and some simple preparation can help make returning to a routine a productive learning experience!

About College Internship Program

The College Internship Program is a comprehensive transition program for young adults on the Autism Spectrum and with Learning Differences. Our Mission is to inspire independence and expand the foundation on which young adults with Autism, ADHD, and other Learning Differences can build happy and productive lives.