In general, “typical” people struggle with getting and staying organized. Our culture is constantly moving and there are so many demands for us to meet. Organization is a hugely important life-skill to have in our tool-belt to battle those daily stressors all of us face.
But have you ever stopped to think about how this affects the little people in your life?
Or how it can really affect the children in your life who have learning differences or special needs?
Imagine how difficult it must be for them to navigate this hectic, fast-faced world. I can barely keep up sometimes. It’s troubling to think about our children (especially our child on the autism spectrum) facing this without the organization skills needed to be successful.
As we have walked the ASD road with our 6 year old, I have learned so many helpful tips for supporting organization skills at home for children – specifically children with learning differences. I thought I would finally dump my brain in here to share all of the great tips I have learned from the doctors and therapists that have touched our lives.
Here are some tips I’ve learned to support organization at home:
A visual is so important for kids with special needs and learning differences. Most children can appreciate knowing what their day looks like…I like to know too! for children with a special need it’s even more important! set up a large master calendar that includes schedules, appointments, and deadlines that pertain to your child. If your child isn’t reading yet you can use pictures. For a child on the autism spectrum, you can use characters for the calendar that are similar to those found in a social story.
If possible, keep the calendar simple and un-busy looking – not overwhelming. You have likely seen the beautiful family calendar’s and command centers shared around the blogosphere. While they are pretty and fun to look at, remember this is a calendar to help your child. You can still make it fun, but try not to add too much information. Keep this calendar for important info and not your to-do list, the shopping list, and their daily chores. That can be saved for a command center – see below.
Oh, and try to keep the calendar at a height where your child can see/read it! My husband is 6′ 6″ so I have to remind him when we are placing wall hangings that *I* would like to see it too. Keep in mind that your child isn’t as tall as you (yet!) and hang it a little lower, if at all possible.
Our child lives by his routine and it helps him feel secure in knowing what we are doing next. Sometimes he doesn’t even have to see the calendar – he knows that on Monday afternoon I pick him up early from school for his pragmatics group. And he knows from there we drive back to school to pick up his big brother from basketball camp. He even knows what is on the hot lunch menu for each day of the week. 🙂 All because these details have been made simple for him to access and they are a part of his daily routine and information gathering.
If possible, have your command center separate from your master calendar. If you add too much to the wall, it can be visually overwhelming and your child may lose interest. For example, have a command center set up near the front or back door and keep your calendar on a wall in the kitchen.
Things for a command center? I think we all know the answer but here is my short list…
* A bulletin board for to-do lists, a grocery list, an envelope for receipts, etc.
* Spot for incoming / outgoing mail
* A list of chores for each family member
* A place for the kids to drop their backpacks and school papers
* Spot for library books
* A bin for sports items
* A spot for you and/or your spouse’s work bag
* Hook for keys
You get the idea – – Keeping everything in one central location key. This will not only help your child, but it will help you when it’s time to grab those ever elusive car keys.
When there is a lack in systems and routines, this puts more pressure on memory and reasoning systems. Children who have a morning routine or do homework at regular times, have less stress on their memory and attention systems. I’m sure you have a routine you enjoy following each day. Think of this step as a way to set your child up for lifelong success!
If you notice your child is struggling to get out the door on time each morning, hit that problem area head on with some special focus. For example, come up with a routine that your child can handle each morning and stick to it. This could include laying clothes out the night before or packing their school snack the night before. You can help reduce stress based on organization!
Help your child identify what is important and what isn’t. Physical organization is just as important as mental organization. if our son’s homework space is a disorganized mess, you can see him immediately unplug from the work he should be doing. if you notice your child’s space is getting cluttered with junk, consider setting up a couple days a months when you tackle the mess together. Having your child help is important because sometimes they don’t know what is important and what isn’t. And children need to learn how to organize. Not everyone is born with the ability to be organized.
If you have a child, whether special needs or not, then you’ve probably heard more than a few dozen times that children thrive in an environment of habits, patterns, systems, routines, and structure. You’ve probably heard that over and over again because it’s true. When children have patterns and systems in their life, it not only helps them at home but it helps them at school and in their future work environments.
Promote regular, healthy patterns for eating and sleeping. Encourage regular exercise too! This is something to do with your entire family – not just your child with learning differences.
Organization or schedules that are too rigid or inflexible may increase anxiety in children with learning differences. When at all possible, keep your family schedule as simple as possible. Make sure routines and systems are flexible and based on need.
I hope this information has been useful! honestly, I could keep going and going here but I’d lose you guys. 🙂
As always, if you have anything to add, your comments are welcomed. There’s plenty more to share and i will be sharing a great list of online resources, apps and books next week.
Have a great weekend!