The OCDiva: Organize Your Way to Happier Kids!

Hi y’all, I’m K.M. Hodge, the suspenseful other half to the Book Cellar Mystery Series.  I’m not much of a diva nor do I have OCD. I do get a deep satisfaction from order and a regimented schedule. As teenager I would polish the wood floors in my room, line up the fringe on rugs and even clean my friends rooms. As you can imagine my friends parents loved me. Now as an adult my quirkiness has turned into a strength especially when parenting my special needs child.

To be a mom of a special needs child–who thrives on routine–I need to organize and schedule our lives down to the most minute detail. This includes constantly monitoring everything about his eating, sleeping, and bathroom habits. The tasks are easiest during the school year when there is a clearly defined schedule that he knows he has to follow. Summer break is a whole other beast, where there isn't as much consistency in his day-to-day schedule. It's also a challenge because he has more unstructured time with his little brother, who often triggers his meltdowns.

So how do I survive summer break with my diva sanity intact? After eight years of trial and error we as a family have put a system in place that works for us. A few of my friends with special needs kids have similar systems. Sadly what works for one family may not work for others. So if this doesn't work for you, don't give up trying to find something that does.

System Part 1: Rules and expectations

20160612_091219All children thrive when things in their world are consistent including rules and corresponding consequences. Rules should be clear and repeated frequently. We have three in our house:

  • Do not hurt others.
  • Do not hurt yourself.
  • Do not break things.

I know this may seem very general, but the simplicity is precisely why it works. Kids with autism need everything to be spelled out. Now that my son is older I have added some extra expectations:

  • 2 chores a week {laundry and put dirty dishes away after meals}.
  • 20 minutes a day of reading.

We also have several privileges like Minecraft, Wii, and  TV. These things can be taken away when he doesn't meet expectations. We have them written down on a white board with a yes next to it or the date in which they will be returned to him.

System Part 2: The Master Schedule

20160612_090924This is the heart of our survival. Months in advance I scour camps and classes and carefully pick out what I think he might like. We always do at least two weeks of camps, one week of vacation bible school, one to four weeks of family vacation and two weeks of swim lessons.

I then make a visual representation of the schedule. When he was small I used laminated pictures to show him what to expect. This year I have a general schedule and a white board calendar. The general schedule shows what will happen and also what the expectations are for each day. I use post its so it can be easily changed as our weeks change out.

System Part 3: Keep up Communication

20160612_090953The last part is to keep up communication. My son and I talk every time there is a meltdown and every night before bed. We discuss what would help him be able to make the best choices. When he was younger I would use this time to verbally reinforce what the expected and unexpected behaviors are and what the consequences will be if he continues to make unexpected choices.

All of these steps require complete consistency and hard work on my part. I am just now starting to see the benefits of this hard work as things I've been drilling into him have finally gotten through. This system has also benefited my neuro typical child. I'd love to hear back for you on what has worked or hasn't worked in your house? How do YOU survive summer break?

 

Kelly OCDivaK.M. Hodge is one of my very favorite people! Normally, I just call her Kelly, though. Besides being a super awesome friend, she's also my co-author for the Book Cellar Mystery series and an amazing writer in her own right too! She's a part time fundraiser and full time stay-at-home mom. In her free time she enjoys reading historical fiction novels, playing board games, and watching Netflix. Connect with her on Facebook or visit her online home, which she adorably calls “The Land of Hodge“.

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