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Here you will find the Rails & Shine's top-picks of tools and tips. Please, note that the Top 5 Tools do not cover all you may want to target, and you will need to decide if you want to shop for tips elsewhere. Whatever you choose, you can still use the Rails & Shine framework moving forwards.  The Top 5 Tools are a mix of anything that can help the child with autism or ADHD. But remember that what might work for one child, another child will put both feet down against. As a parent you need to learn to trust your gut. Nobody knows your child the way you do. It is always okay to say 'no' and walk away from any tip or suggestion. No doctor's degree, website or therapist can replace what your gut  knows about your child. If you are a teacher relatively new in the child's life, then be wise and save a lot of effort and tries, ask the parent's gut feeling on if it will work first. Share what is working!




Balanced Energy
   Balanced Energy

           TOOLS & TIPS (AUTISM, ADHD)



Make a list with things that take away the anxiety OR HYPERACTIVITY!

A distracting ice-cream to put off thoughts of a doctor’s appointment, a video game at the restaurant table, a weighted blanket or vest for sensory control...


How can you make home a safe haven?

What does your child need (surrounding, demands, activities) to have a place where mind, feelings and body can find their equilibrium? Find a spot at daycare or school too.


Get to know your balance and imbalance!

Register your child’s (and maybe yours) balance over the day for 1-2 weeks. Use your child’s schedule for the day or a separate day planner where you write down activities and color mark them. Red = Overloaded. Yellow = Manageable. Green = Balanced. What did you learn?


Alternate draining and energizing activities!

Examples of draining activities are those with demands on multiple weak skills (motor/ /planning/remembering), dealing with change, sensory overload... While energy and balance can be restored through solitude, interests, resting or exercising. Or the opposite is true for your child!


Add short bursts of physical activity!

Exercise can manage hyperactivity or high stress levels in or between low-energy lessons or distressing tasks. Just handing out papers, jumping out with your arms and legs, or running to fetch a thing might do. 


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+Some Extra Bedtime Tips 

Create a bedtime routine with the same steps and with incentives!

Always stop at the same stations (take on the pajamas in bathroom) and in the same order (after brushing teeth). Include small incentives in between, like blowing a few bubbles after cleaned teeth or squashing your child when ready in bed. 


Try Melatonin for sleep difficulties to set your child’s body clock.

Can be used short-term to succeed with a new bedtime routine or long-term. There are also time-released versions if your child wakes up during night. Consult your doctor!


A sleep-showing clock.

Your child might not understand that at night we sleep. Remove the minute hand from a wall clock and mark when it is time to sleep on it in black (with pictures of a moon and each family member sleeping in bed). You could also add a wakup activity - the hour hand will point to it at the time to get up. Place the clock in clear view from your child’s bed and maybe with a night lamp.




Expectations in Advance
   Expectations in Advance



Make clear Rule Cards.

Create cards with pictures of daily routines and three simple rules on (in pictures or text).


Rule Card - Play in sandbox


Make your own Rule Cards with pictograms from Sclera.




Write Social Stories to explain how and why you act in different situations!

For example how do you behave in a lunch line? The stories should be encouraging and clear and adjusted to your child’s communication skills.

The Adrian and Super-A life skills learning books are children's books based on social stories, and they cover skills like waiting, washing hands and understanding a sibling's perspectives. If you want non-fiction books, take a closer look at the Now I Get It series.


Prepare any changes to routines carefully and in advance!

Focus on the positive aspect that also come with the change and on resolutions to issues that your child might have.



Make points and make new rules … but always with focus on the next time!

Either bring your point up only just BEFORE the next time you expect the same problem, or do it now in a positive way: “You did good bringing out the milk. Next time, remember to hold it straight, then you won’t spill.” Or back down from a demand to avert a crisis: “Today you did not put your shoes in place. Tomorrow I want you to do that. It is your job, and I know you can do it!”


Model right behavior.

Use prompting and point out what others are doing and why: “I see Andrew putting his gloves on. That’s good – now he will not get cold.”




My Way Out
   My Way Out



Show your child safe ways to express and manage anger.

Teach your child a signal code or exit phrase when he is approaching his limit, like “Leave!” or clap. Don’t overdo the politeness, it is a crisis code when angry. Model it yourself or by siblings to introduce it.


Write a Crisis Plan!

Include your child’s behavior & your response. Let your child know (when calm) that this is what will happen.


WHY does your child want his or her way?

Listen to your child, mirror what he is saying, figure out why he wants his way – it may not be the reason you assume. Describe why you want your way. You can picture your two different views on paper. Compromise with the focus on how you can achieve the whys. (Reed about this Plan B in Ross Greene’s The Explosive child.)


Have a safe corner, cupboard or beanbag to go to when distress is on its way.

Show your child where to get some solitude when your are visiting.


Bring distractions with you.

Bring a video game or safety kit on your road trips or visits with whatever will distract your child: toys, a lollypop, stickers a favorite book...


Take charge; gently guide your child through the meltdown.

Be your child’s rails “I will give you this again when you are calm. I am just keeping it safe (from breaking) for you.”


Ignore spitting and throwing, or try introducing a replacement behavior!

It is very challenging to deal with aggressions. Remember they are not personal. Your child is talking to you in the way he or she can at that moment. Ignore or say “I can tell you are very upset with me. I will listen to what you want when you talk and don’t spit.” Try giving in to your child’s wishes for period of time and see if this reinforces a resolving attitude and decreases the aggressive behavior. Try introducing a replacement behavior (going to room, clapping, stomping, pointing tongue) that you prefer and reinforce it by rewards or praising your child for remembering that behavior instead of spitting/hitting. But it needs to be a behavior your child accepts in anger.(Reed about the Low Arousal Approach in Bo Hejlskov Elven's boo.)





Your Patience and Acceptance
   Your Patience & Acceptance



Understanding and accepting the diagnosis (cars vs. trains).

You are not alone; more than 1 in 20 kids are on the Autism Spectrum or have ADHD (or both). Find these families, talk and share. Especially a high-functioning kid with autism may leave you lost around demands and the support needed – at moments they seem like any kid out there, and then their whole world falls apart for an hour because of threads in socks or something you don’t even get. What support do they need from you? They need you laying out the rails! Comparing them with trains will help you understanding them. Unlike a Car-kid, they have a much harder time to start moving, come to a stop or change directions. Like any train, they need their rails to function. Our Train-kids will only work while on track, with a clear destination and on their own time table. They also have a need to stop at their regular stations, and to do things the same way each time they do it. If they are pushed outside of the rails in another direction, or ahead of their own schedule, they will, of course, become a train wreck. If yesterday they went through the day in their red sweater, then they might still be on that track today.


It is okay to take care of the parent of your child!

Think of the oxygen mask in planes, first you, then your child.


Stay Calm!

Be calm, move calm and talk calm (or keep quiet). Picture yourself as a tree or whatever helps – get back and don’t add gasoline to the fire – use the Low arousal approach.


Be on his side and make friends before points.

Would you rather do as you are told by someone you like and are convinced wants your best, or someone you intensly hate and who you are sure wants nothing but having it their way?


Nurture his/her strength, help him/her feel successful and catch your child doing something right.

If you do not find anything to praise or develop, then you really need to sit down with a pen and paper, or someone who does. Decide what sucesses you want to start with and make them happen.


Buy things twice

Accept things get lost and that one of your child's special needs is having two or more of the same. So make a habbit of buy things in multiples of needs. This means less frustration for you and fewer meltdowns when (not if) your child forgets, misplaces or throws away in anger. Make a list of critical things and make sure you have at least two of them – schoolbooks for homework at home, gloves or favorite objects. And if your child has trouble adjusting to new clothes and always wants to wear the same - buy ten trousers in the next size as well!





Removed Triggers
   Removed Triggers

           TOOLS & TIPS (AUTISM, ADHD)



Remove Choices – BUT leave two.

Don’t: “What do you want to wear today?” Do: “Do you want this red or this blue T-shirt?”


Remove sensory overload!

Pad sounds, dim lights, handle smell (perfumes, outdoor), support comfortable cloth & footwear (or none), head phones or ear plugs (with music), a cap or sun-glasses.


Adjust the environment for hyperactive OR  HYPO-SENSISITIVE children!

Add a rocking chair, beanbag, inflatable cushion or raised table. Help with focus – stress ball to squeeze or chewing gum while listening.

 Chew Sticks

Remove impulse triggers.

Hide things from sight, like distracting toys, your cell phone or anything that will create an impulse behavior.


Find ways to replace impulsive or compulsory behaviors!

Have chewing gum to prevent from putting things in mouth, a beanbag to prevent getting up...




Added Structure
   Added Structure & Daily Sameness




Create schedules for each day (or shorter periods)!

Use pictures or text, display time if it helps. Make the schedules as same as possible. Reuse them – always have the same schedule on the same weekday or for an activity like “Going to visit grandma: Take on shirt (or not), comb hair (or not), get in car (yes) …” Look at old ones that worked when doing new ones.


Use boxes or folders to mask differences and to create sameness.

Replace a complicated school schedule – use a red folder each morning no matter what subject it is and place task instructions + the school book inside; after recess always use a blue … Use a green container for any paper crafting, yellow can be used for game/puzzle time, pink …


Take charge. Lay out the rails and gently push your kid in the right direction.

Just make sure there are enough rails to support your kid’s needs for moving.


Keep instructions clear and same!

Use the same phrasing/pictures between times, and adjust the level of detail to your child’s needs. Don’t overload.


Visualize the destination!

If you are going to an outing, show a photo. If you are making a Christmas card, show a ready one.





   Interacting on My Own Terms




Communicate clearly and on your child’s terms!

Find what works the best: sign language, laminated pictures, Apps, written instructions. Use the appropriate level of details. To practice communication skills, for instance through the Rapid Prompting Method, also see the [Therapy overview].


Let your child interact with friends (who share a special interest), social events and in activities – but on their own terms.

This might mean five minutes, playing computer games together or interacting online. It is not what makes You happy.


Make communication fun!

Play games together, talk about what interests your child, and use the computer for education.


Use prompting to create emotion awareness.

“The girl on TV must be hurting because…, I feel sad for her.”


Choose the most suitable school!

Will your child thrive the most in a school with other special needs kids like him or her, or through mainstreaming? Talk to those in your situation with older children. Ask the school about their support and approach for a child like yours, get examples on how they have done with other kids.





Laughing and motivating
   Laughing through it & Motivation

           TOOLS & TIPS (AUTISM, ADHD)



How can YOU add the fun?

Have a problem? Don’t think about how to change the behavior. Think how you can add some fun? Tickle, sing, scream, run, make it a challenge …


Always practice skills training in the most enjoyable way for your child.

You do not need a pen and paper to practice hand writing: sow cross stitches, place small stickers on a row, draw letters in sand or in a tray with bath foam…


Use short-term rewards or short fun activities as a break from “work”!

Give a sticker, a game card, blow bubbles, spin a wheel, or play hoops with the hyperactive kid.

 Sensory timer

Use (laminated) progress cards and tick of tasks for an activity.

Set a sticker or draw a favorite thing when the whole activity is completed.


Getting it right? Give a smile and a thumbs-up!




Some More Time
   Some more Time




Give your child a few more minutes than you would want.

Your child is a special needs kid, and one of the special needs is some more time!


Visualize time!

Remove the minute hand on a clock and let the hour hand point to pictures of activities you place on it. 


Use countdowns!

Give a warning 5 minutes before (use traffic lights or Apps).


Visual Timers


Build new around the sameness!

Find the day activities that remain the same, like food time. Display these clearly on whatever aid you use. Relate to them for new or changing activities, such as math is right after LUNCH.


Let your kid feel finished!

Find ways to time activities to suit with your own schedule for dinner. Maybe start eating ahead, and get your kid when you can hear the video game is up. Encourage the child with ADHD to finish.




Token Board Autism and ADHD Web Shop for Children School Responsibility Flash Cards


Look for books, sensory aides, learning games and much more in The Autism & ADHD Kids Webshop!



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