A network to share best practices for children with special needs
It is 8:00 p.m. Breakfast and dinner dishes are in the sink. You cannot get to the washer because of the stack of clothes in front of it. Jarod still has at least another hour of homework …..all you want to do is sit down (and sometimes, just cry) . You truly know the meaning of “bone tired”. Does that sound familiar? Unfortunately, it is the rule rather than the exception. Being a parent is one of the most exhausting jobs there is. Being the parent of a child with special needs adds a new layer of responsibilities and concerns. Don’t misunderstand…you would not change a thing, but it is demanding. YOU HAVE GOT TO BE EXHAUSTED.
We haven’t even discussed the emotional energy that you spend. Ensuring that your child is receiving all that he needs and is afforded under IDEA and ADA takes physical energy and determination, but it also can drain your emotional energy. You lay awake at night worrying…..is your child progressing like he should? Are you doing enough to make sure that he is getting everything that he needs? Who is refueling your physical and emotional energy? Your “To Do” list is long. How are you getting it all done? You take care of your children, the house, the appointments, the conferencing, the therapies ; I could go on and on. Some of you have significant others who share the responsibility, some of you do not. Either way, with or without help, it is a lot.
It is an understatement to say that you must be organized…..and I am preaching to the choir, I know. Let’s talk about specifics of your organization system. Granted, there are some days that organization flies out of the window and there is NOTHING that you can do about it! Those are the days you want to go to bed and cover up your head!
Make a master list for the week with three categories:
1) MUST DO
2) NEED TO DO
3) WANT TO DO
MUST DO category is probably non-negotiable things like therapy, doctor appointments, activities that are scheduled.
NEED-TO-DOs may include specific chores like, wash dishes, put in a load of clothes, make bed, etc. Include everything you can think of in that category. I promise that it will be more than one page long and you will most likely add to it as the week progresses…but that is okay. There is something about writing it down; when you write it, you do not have to exert anymore energy trying not to forget it! If you don’t write it down, you may not think about it again until next year sometime. It feels sooooo good to cross items off of your list! That is why I include everything that I can think of to write down. I LOVE crossing it off of my list! Sometimes, if I am doing something that is not on my list, I will go put it on my list so I can cross it off when I finish! For example, if you are in the middle of doing something, and you think about a friend to whom you would like to send a card to let her know you are thinking about her, jot the friend’s name on your list. That feels pretty good, doesn’t it? You haven’t sent her a card yet, but just writing it down so you won’t forget is almost like a relief and makes you feel good. You may not get to her this week, but trust me, you will because she is “on your list”!
WANT-TO-DO column, includes activities that you want to do! One item might be, “Read a magazine” or “Take a 30 minute bath”. Make sure you carve out time for a couple of those activities each week. If we are realistic, we all know that you will not cross all of the items in that column off of your list in one week; but keep them on your list and add new ones each week . I don’t know what all will be on your list. But if you keep a running list of the must-do, need-to-do and want to do’s, you can get to all of them sooner or later. If an item is time-sensitive, it will be in the must do column! Make sure you do at least one want-to do everyday. It may be buying the card for your friend…..you can address it tomorrow, then mail it the next day. It doesn’t all have to be done the same day or even the same week. My list is a running list. I buy a small composition book and just keep adding and crossing off! If you just check one thing off of your list everyday….you are making progress and you see it. It feels so good to draw a line through that one item!! Some days you will not have time to even think about it. A few examples of how to “streamline” a few of the chores……
• Get help from those most able to give it…..your family; yes, especially your children! Include your children as young as 3, they love to help! If your special needs child is challenged physically and/or mentally, they can offer help and support ! Determine what each child (and significant other) is reasonably able to do. Will it be done like you would do it? No, it will not. If they fold the clothes, will they be folded very neatly? Probably not; but they will be folded and put away. Get everyone a basket and write their name on it. When clothes are folded, they will be put in the appropriate person’s basket. Each person will be responsible for putting away the clothes in their baskets. (TIP: make sure you include as part of the expectations that the basket must be returned to the laundry room. If not, they will live out of the basket! Trust me, I speak from experience!)
• If you do not already have one, get a Bluetooth for your phone. It is amazing what you can get done while on the phone! Folding clothes makes no noise, so you can fold and talk if you have a Bluetooth!! Hands-free!
• Meals: children learn when they finish with their delicious meal that you provided (note I did not say cooked….I said provided), they take their plates (or boxes) to the sink or trash. They clean off the place where they were sitting. If there are dishes to go into the dishwasher or to be washed, everyone has a specific night that they are assigned “kitchen duty”. I usually would assign two members. Show them exactly how you want it done and then let them do their magic! Have a kitchen checklist so they will not forget anything that is to be done in cleaning the kitchen! Will older children complain, and say that you make them do all of the work? They certainly will! Your response?? “Why do you think we had you?” (they cannot think of a come-back response to that one!) While the kitchen is being cleaned, others family members will be getting ready for bed, finishing up homework, etc.
• Homework: have a designated time and place for each child to do his/her homework. If your child wants you to sit right beside him the entire time, do not . Do one or two examples with him, then have him do one independently. The sooner you “wean” your child from having you sitting with him to complete homework, the sooner he will become self-determining. Will he get all of the items correct? Probably not, especially at first. If you check his work after completion, do not tell him which items are incorrect. Tell him how many are incorrect and let him find them, and figure out, then tell you, what he did wrong. Warning: initially, your child will probably rebel against this way of doing his homework, especially if you habitually sit beside him while he is completing it. Do not give up, be strong! He will eventually get used to it and be much more self-assured and confident as a result. It is very important, no matter what challenges your child may have, that he becomes independent. Give him coupons; when he asks you a question, he must give you a coupon. When all of the coupons are gone, he can ask no more questions. If you want more suggestions, I have plenty of strategies for homework! I will blog about it at a later date!
Take one step at a time…..at the end of the week, you will be amazed at what you have crossed off of your lists! It is such a great feeling to look at your week and have most items crossed off! That calls for a celebration! Do something special as a family…..celebrate the week of working together and getting it done!