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For people with Down syndrome, family members, caregivers and professionals.

Tips for Building a New Habit or Routine

March 2023 | Katie Frank, PhD, OTR/L - Occupational Therapist, Adult Down Syndrome Center

Many individuals with Down syndrome have “the groove” or a set pattern or routine in their actions or thoughts. This preference for sameness or repetition can be advantageous when establishing a new habit or routine. We have shared several tips for supporting individuals with Down syndrome in building new habits or routines below.

  • Work with the individual with Down syndrome to identify the habit or routine that they want to build.

  • Pair changes. Time when you start to work on the new behavior so that it coincides with another change in the person's life (e.g., seasonal changes, new school year, etc.). 

  • Start small and make gradual changes. For example, if the individual wants to wake up 1 hour earlier, start by waking up 15 minutes earlier. After a few days or a week, wake up 30 minutes earlier, then 45 minutes earlier, and eventually 60 minutes earlier.

  • Set concrete time limits. For example, if an individual is working on brushing their teeth more thoroughly, choose a song that is about 2 minutes long. Encourage the individual to brush their teeth for the length of the song.

  • Give choices. If an individual wants to incorporate more physical activity into their routine, rather than making the choice whether to exercise, make the choice whether to do an exercise video or take a walk.

  • Use visual supports. Select the type of visual support based on the individual's preferences (e.g., paper schedule vs. phone app, pictures vs. no pictures, etc.). 

Find More Resources

We offer a variety of resources for people with Down syndrome, their families and caregivers and the professionals who care for and work with them. Search our collection of articles, webinars, videos, and other educational materials.

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Please note: The information on this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to serve as a substitute for a medical, psychiatric, mental health, or behavioral evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment plan by a qualified professional. We recommend you review the educational material with your health providers regarding the specifics of your health care needs.