When a child I work with asks for a break - I think: "progress!!!". Knowing you need a break, and being able to communicate that need is a powerful tool. This can be very challenging for people with sensory or learning differences. By taking breaks you can better manage your emotions, actions, and keep your energy level consistent during times you need to perform.
The first step towards helping a child ask for breaks is to figure out when they need to take breaks. Children need breaks throughout the day for a variety of reasons. Some of the most common reasons I see a need for a break are:
They are too excited (or hyper-alert)
A task is very challenging (maybe, too challenging)
They are too tired
They are bored or not motivated by the activity
Once you start to see patterns or can identify these times, the next step is to comment on a child's behavior. Describe the behavior in objective language, "your head is on the table" or "you're jumping up and down". You can use visual cues to help you describe what you're seeing. For example, you can have a picture of an excited TV or book character or the word "excited". This will help build self awareness. Once you and the child you are working with have an understanding about how they are feeling you ask the key questions: "you're feeling excited, but we need to read our book, what can we do?"
Here is where you may experience some difficulty. Most children who are learning about self-awareness or their sensory needs may not know what to do. They may not be sure about the expectations of the situation or that their actions are not meeting the expectations.
This is where you, the caring adult, C.A.N help!
Clarify the expectations
Assist the child in identify and engaging in a realistic break option that will help them meet expectations, and..
Normalize their sensory experience (“it’s OK, we all need breaks!”)
We all need breaks due to over-excitement, boredom, or frustration. It's just that the neuro-typical adult can [usually] communicate they need a break, hold off until it's time for a break, or take a break in secret so no one knows they're having a hard time.
How do you take breaks, or help others take breaks?