My tips for keeping life with three autistic kids simply scheduled

January 17 2013 | Guest post by Tina (sk8bettyt)
KISS: Keep it simply scheduled
Photos by Tina.

Having three children with high-functioning autism requires daily structure on my part. I am an organizational freak to a fault, but even I love me some "organized chaos" from time to time. My kids, however, aren't so fond of not knowing what's coming up or what's going on. So I made them this scheduling area by the front door to not only keep them in the loop, but make it easy enough for me to not feel committed to some intricate details that I usually give up on after a week.

Purchasing a cheap pack of four cork boards was the biggest expense. The rest was planning and raiding my supplies. Since I live in a rental (and even after three years I'm still aiming to get that deposit back one day) I knew I couldn't do anything permanent to the walls. Using 3M command strips, I hung each square on the wall. (sidenote: those command strips are a renter's dream and I would marry them if I could.) Grabbing 2 sheet protectors lets me change things monthly for the calendar and menu. The sheet protectors are hung by the permanent squares that came with the boards.

First square

The first square holds special notes such as report cards, or prized artwork. It's at the top because, well, don't special notes deserve a spot at the top? Yes!

Second square

The second square holds a calendar with notes for doctor appointments, days out of school, and when report cards/progress reports come out. The template was a blank form found online, so I can print and reprint as needed.

Third square

The third square may be my pride and joy. Each morning I had to wager a guess on the weather since we walk to school every day. I take a few moments the night before to check the weather online (no cable in the house — do we sound ancient yet?), then simply move the arrows to the appropriate boxes. The school-aged kids (ages six and nine) can read the words and know which jacket and accessories to grab before heading out the door. The pins don't go all the way through the board to save my walls from a million holes.

Fourth square

The fourth square holds the school lunch menu. My 6-year-old has food sensory issues, so we have to plan ahead if he is taking a lunchbox or eating school lunch. Putting it where he can read it helps him practice his reading while letting him decide if he wants to eat school lunch. Giving the kids advance notice helps them make their own decisions (and takes stress off me so I'm not guessing every day).

How does your family organize your lives?

    • You are welcome! I am forever examining ways to teach my kids independence while guiding them in the right direction. This gives them the option to know what's going on without me just telling them and they forget 2 seconds later.

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  1. This is awesome! I don't have kids yet and I think even kids without autism would find this useful. Thanks for the amazing share and thanks for being an awesome mom – you can tell you work hard!!!

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    • Awww, shucks. *blush* Thank you. With the 3 boys, 2 in school, a partner who works 3rd shift 5 days a week, full time college for me…..I have to keep things in working order just to save my sanity! Therapists and other people who come to my home are surprised as how organized I am. I have to be!

      1 agrees
  2. We have 'command central' in our front hallway: a mirror, whiteboard, minishelf/hooks, calendar, and this amazing board that allows for magnets and pushpins. Our next addition will be wall folios for incoming mail or person-specific paperwork. Having everything all together helps us stay organized, and it also looks really cool. Someday we might add a space at child level, but not quite yet.

    1 agrees
    • I have a cafeteria-line style kitchen (gotta love tiny townhome apartments with tiny kitchens) and the long wall holds all things organizational for me. I'm such a nerd about this stuff. Love the idea of yours!

  3. I just want to pipe in here to agree that 3M command ANYTHING is awesome for renters. The 3M command hooks have been a life saver. No hook by the stove for potholders? 3M hook! No towel rod or hook by the shower? 3M hook! No way to keep your individual little herb growing containers safe from the cat on the windowsill? Put a row of 3M hooks up the sunny side of your window frame and hang those little pots out of reach! Love them…

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    • If I went around and took pictures of everything that is being held by 3M command strips, you guys would be very shocked! Those things are made of unicorn rainbows with glitter-filled happiness.

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    • I'm actually not allowed to use those in my apartment. Which makes no sense, but apparently they'd rather have holes in the walls.

      • How are they going to find out? In this case, what they don't know won't hurt them (or their walls)! Unless maybe there's fragile wallpaper or something.

  4. When I was growing up, we had a large paper calendar in the kitchen. My brother and I knew to check each day for whatever activities were happening. In addition, as we grew older, we knew that if it wasn't on the calendar, it didn't happen – if you wanted a ride to friend's house, don't count on it unless it's on the calendar. Want mom and dad to show up for a concert or swim meet? Put it on the calendar. It definitely instilled a sense of responsibility and planning. I also learned from an early age that if I want something that depends on other people's time and schedules, I should plan earlier rather than later (and be considerate about cancelling as well).

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    • I have several friends who could benefit from learning time management, commitment to activites and consideration for others' time. Being their friend is hard work!

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  5. We use something similar in our child-free house as well. My partner has ADD, so putting everything on one side of the fridge and keeping it really paired down helps our household function.

    The command center has three things for us bigger kids: the grocery list and budget (kept on a notepad so we can take it with us); his printed weekly work schedule; and a calendar I created that lists chores, our top priority for the month, something not to miss (usually a natural phenomenon like the monarch migration), and the actual calendar. It's changed over time according to what works best for us. Feel free to use it and adapt it if it is helpful.

    Template for the latter here:
    http://bookten.wordpress.com/2012/08/19/calendar-and-chore-template/

    1 agrees
    • That would be perfect for my 9 year old! He struggles with organization, priorities, and responsibility. He takes very well to written instructions so this could be very good for him! Thanks for sharing!

  6. Tangentially, if you ever feel like writing about your 6-year-old's food texture issues and the things you do to cope with that, I'd be interested in reading that.

    My husband has really severe food texture issues (He mainly subsists on a variety of bread products), so I anticipate a high likely hood that our future!kids will have issues with this, too.

    2 agree
    • I could definitely give it a shot but I can't say I'm super awesome at it. I have read some great tips in other places. Maybe I can come up with something that would work. Thanks for the suggestion!

  7. Special education preschool teacher here- this is a great idea! I could see a version of it helping some of my kiddos.

    2 agree
    • Glad to hear that! I had to find the perfect mix of visual and written instruction that works for both my 6 and 9 year old. So far this has worked well.

    • I forgot to give credit for the weather idea. I searched on Pinterest for the idea and found a 2nd grade teacher who uses this format in her classroom. I just recreated the idea. I thought it was genius and simple.

  8. Can I just commend you for being awesome- from what I've read, it sounds like you have a full work load and still put this much time into your kids. Kudos!
    Plus this feeds my organization fetish so nicely.

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