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.  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.  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.

  • VISUAL MAP: Create a Central Message Area for the family. This needs to be big and should have a large weekly (or daily, if more appropriate) calendar to write out what is coming for the day/week. Include camps, beach trips, when there will be downtime at home, as well as some of the daily expectations. Letting your sensory child know what is happening and when to expect it can lower his anxiety level and prepare him for the times he will need to be engaged.
  • SET EXPECTATIONS: Build-in Loose Routines to your summer days. Have some things that are expected to be done certain days of the week (put in the fun stuff also!) and include them on the central message area.  Summer Reading on weekday mornings, Chores on  Ice Cream night on Wednesdays, and Pizza Lunch on Fridays are all ways to create some simple structure at home.  For kids that do much better with a more formal structure, consider supporting them with a week on/week off camp routine and/or regular out-of-home activities.
  • GIVE CHOICES: Create some options for the unplanned time.  Sit down with your “sensory” child and make-up a few lists to have on hand (lists can be made with pictures and/or words).  Some lists might include: “Free Time Choices”,  “Rainy Day Activities”, “Summer Friend Time”.  Laminate the lists and hang in your Central Message Area.  Be mindful of the signs that your “sensory” child needs help managing their unplanned time.  For example, when a rigid, anxious, or distracted child says they are bored more then once, it can be a way of asking for help managing their unplanned time.

Tap into simple strategies to help your “sensory” child this summer – map it out, set expectations, and provide visual choices for the sometimes  challenging downtime.  Here’s to simple sensory solutions for peaceful summer days!