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Powering Up Your Day and Supporting Learning Differences

By Karen Kaplan, MS

Many people believe we need to find a way to recharge each day to empower us in our lives. I assume it would be the same for people with learning differences and their parents. Yes, parents truly need to power up so they can not only navigate their day but also support someone with autism, Down syndrome, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) moving through their day as well.

Perhaps one or more of the following tips might help someone who learns differently power up their day or maybe even help their parent, caregiver, or teacher power up their day.

  1. Either the parent, individual, or both could try establishing a satisfying bedtime routine.  The reduction in the amount of time spent on an iPhone or tablet should be moved from 15 minutes before bed to 1.5 hours before bed.

  2. Schedule a nice hot shower before bed or soak in the bathtub.

  3. Select a book and read several pages before turning out the lights.

  4. Find a moment in your schedule that allows time to play a favorite playlist of songs that calm and regulate.

  5. Put in your routine to do some breath work just before or after lights out. Five deep breaths in and five sighs out. You might list out your daily accomplishments or joys.

  6. Build a morning wake-up routine with a quiet wake-up sound first. You could incorporate the breath work (from #5) and remember the positives of the day before. You might also do some stretching after waking up, followed by making the bed and letting the warm water rinse off the night. Then you can dress, do your hair, and brush your teeth. You might add a list of to-dos for the day and then begin them.

  7. Developing a community of support can help power our day. This community is one of support and accepts and understands the journey you are on.

  8. I power my day with a yummy cappuccino. You could make a mocha, a latte, or a fresh teapot.

  9. Your power-on could start with a run around the neighborhood or some exercises with equipment.

  10. Your power on day should start with a nutritional meal.

  11. Some people can take a power-up nap for just 10 or 15 minutes.

  12. Powering up the day can naturally happen when we are engaging in something meaningful and purposeful. When we find something we are passionate about, we power up. A parent may have a hobby or work they enjoy. Parents, help your child develop curiosity around hobbies they might enjoy. These hobbies could help refresh their day after a stressful or chaotic time at work or school.

  13. Take life simpler. Multi-tasking can cause a great deal of stress. You can power up by reducing the number of expectations you place on yourself. Help them organize their day and keep it simple.

  14. Give people space to make mistakes. Let them know it is okay to make mistakes. Help them let go of those mistakes that could power them up. Parents also need to give themselves permission to make mistakes. Let them go.

  15. Writing in a journal can lighten the load of the day, week, or month. Get feelings of sadness out, then refresh the day.

  16. Be sure each day to ask yourself, are you tired, angry, hungry, or lonely? Implementing solutions to these answers can power up your day. 

  17. Some find powering up through spiritual connections.  Maybe meditation, prayer, church, or temple time can refresh.

  18. When a friend of mine was experiencing depression and often tired and worn out, she took out her camera each day and took one picture of something beautiful in her daily life. It gave her a moment of joy.

  19. For individuals on the autism spectrum, revise with time alone. Ensure it is possible after a chaotic day at school, shopping, or working. It may help them power up.

  20. I find cleaning my space and letting go of stuff every season helps me center and see space, thus refreshing me somehow. Maybe helping them let go of torn clothing, broken toys, or missing pieces to games, items no longer wanted or needed, could give them more space for something new, powering them up.

  21. Recently, I met someone who schedules a massage monthly. This helps her refresh and power on.

I think it is important to model powering-up for our children. I think we need to teach people how to support themselves when they are hungry, tired, lonely, frustrated, or worn out from multi-tasking; I think parents need to give themselves permission to power up, refresh, and gather new energy to move through each day.

Karen Kaplan, MS, is a native San Franciscan. She completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, in speech pathology and audiology. She minored in special education and obtained her speech therapist and special education credentials in California. Karen worked as a speech therapist for schools for 20 years before opening her own residential and education program for students with autism. She worked in credential programs at Sacramento State University as well as UC Davis and spent 20 years directing private schools for those with autism and similar learning challenges.


Karen founded a non-profit, Offerings, which helps cultures globally to understand those with developmental challenges. For seven years, she founded and facilitated an autism lecture series and resource fair in Northern California. Karen still facilitates an annual Autism Awesomeness event. She is currently consulting, helping families, schools, and centers for children, teens, and adults. Karen has authored three books: Reach Me Teach Me: A Public School Program for the Autistic Child; A Handbook for Teachers and Administrators, On the Yellow Brick Road: My Search for Home and Hope for the Child with Autism, and Typewriting to Heaven… and Back: Conversations with My Dad on Death, Afterlife and Living  (which is not about autism but about having important conversations with those we love).



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