Carolyn’s organization tips are useful for all families not just ones with sensory kids. And I take comfort in her statement, "I like to think of Back-to-School as a three month process instead of a one day event. " - Anisa
Back-to-School is often a time of year that is filled with excitement and stress all mixed together.Â This is especially true for our rigid, anxious, and distracted kids.Â They will certainly find excitement and comfort in seeing old friends and getting back into a routine but may struggle with learning new schedules, managing academic expectations, and staying organized.Â Here are a few tips to help your sensory child (and your whole family!) get back-to-school in a more peaceful way:
FOCUS ON IMMEDIATE NEEDS ONLY
I like to think of Back-to-School as a three month process instead of a one day event.Â Shifting into this mode of thinking will help you support your sensory child with the most important needs as they unfold - keeping it simple for them and for you.Â Let’s focus on the needs for September - getting used to new routines and finding the right after-school activities:
Home: Solidify Morning Routines
Do as much as you can the night before - backpacks ready, lunches made, and clothes picked out.Â Make a morning checklist or picture schedule that you hang in the bathroom that provides a step-by-step plan for your child.Â Have all of their toiletries in a labeled bin system.Â For extra support, have a caddy hold all of the morning necessities to make it more visual, accessible, and portable for those super late mornings!
School: Learning New Schedules
Make it a priority to help your child get a copy of their daily schedule and/or after-school activities to keep at home to review at night as they are planning for the next day. For extra support, create and laminate a simpler version of the new schedule for them to keep in their backpack or hang in their locker/cubby to review as needed.
After School: Thoughtful Activity Selection
No matter how much support you give your sensory child, they will still have periods of being frustrated, anxious, and overwhelmed.Â It is very important to balance out the school challenges by making sure your sensory child’s after-school activities tap into one of their fascinations, make them feel good about themselves and their talents, or let them relax in a way that is fun for them.
Break down the Back-to-School process for your sensory child. Taking the first few weeks to support the new home and school routines, and to investigate quality after-school activities for your child will support a smoother transition to school.Â Simple changes for more peaceful days.
Summer is often a favorite time of year for parents and kids alike as it means lazy days filled with pools, beaches, and cookouts. But summer can also be a great time to teach some simple organizing and planning skills to kids without the pressure of school, homework, or activities. For many kids, learning in a more relaxed setting (with a more relaxed parent!) will help them be more involved in developing a new system or learning a new skill.
3 Life Skills to Build and Support over the Summer:
Take the extra time your child has at home this summer to begin to teach some basic life skills. It can be as simple as sorting laundry and learning how to run the washing machine, learning how to cook a simple meal, or planning a family outing (have them manage logistics like planning the schedule, getting driving directions, plan for food etc.) - all skills kids will need as they grow up. If your child needs extra support, create a visual checklist to hang near the task area.
Planning and Scheduling
Most kids will have to learn how to plan and schedule their time, something that is especially true as they get into middle school. Have them practice by managing their weekly schedule over the summer. Sit down with them Sunday night with a list of everything scheduled for their week, things they need to get done, and fun things they would like to do. Now, have them punch all their activities into a weekly whiteboard planner to see how everything will fit together for the week. This exercise is a wonderful tool for academic and extracurricular planning during the school year.
Identify one or two times of day or tasks that are typically hard for your child during the school year. Take some time over the summer to organize the area or the chore to help it make more sense for your child. Creating some sequential checklists, limiting chores to a 3-step process, or simplifying a cluttered space in their room are all a few ways you can help your child be more successful managing challenging times and tasks.
By working on planning and life skills, you will be teaching your child how to create external schedules and organizing tools - something that will support them all year long. Developing these skills over the summer also means you will have time to adjust and tweak before school rolls around. Here’s to simple solutions for more peaceful days!
I would like to welcome new contributing writer, Carolyn Dalgliesh, a professional organizer and “sensory” mom. She is the founder & owner of Systems for Sensory Kids, a leading-edge organizing model that teaches parents how to tap into systems, routines, and visual aids to organize and empower their rigid, anxious, and/or distracted children. Carolyn also does professional home and small business organizing through Simple Organizing Strategies. A native Rhode Islander, she lives in North Kingstown with her husband and two children. Although I long for a break from the school-year bustle, “sensoy” kids and others often benefit (and even thrive) on a bit of structure. I welcome Carolyn’s advice on how to “organize” our summer. - Anisa
We all crave those lazy days of summer, especially kids as summer means less work and more fun! While many "sensory" kids (like those with anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, ADD/ADHD, Asperger's, learning challenges, or Sensory Processing Disorder) are relieved to have less stress and academic work, the summer brings up a common challenge- managing unplanned and unstructured time.Â The good news is you can help all types of sensory kids manage summer downtime with a few simple tools.
Managing Unplanned Days
Our main goal here is to provide a visual map, set expectations ahead of time, and give some choices.Â These tools help our distracted child stay on task, help our anxious/overwhelmed child know what to expect, and help our rigid child know the mix of desired and undesired activities.
Tap into simple strategies to help your "sensory" child this summer - map it out, set expectations, and provide visual choices for the sometimesÂ challenging downtime.Â Here’s to simple sensory solutions for peaceful summer days!