For many of us, the start of the second half of the school year signals a fresh beginning and an opportunity for growth and change. In addition to setting goals and resolutions, January also offers a great time to clear out and organize spaces. For families with children who have unique needs and/or learning disabilities, organization and structure can be especially helpful in creating a more successful home and school experience.
Declutter and downsize
With children outgrowing clothing, toys, and books rather quickly, it can be easy to accumulate extra "stuff" in your child's spaces. Having too much clutter in an area can have an impact on anyone's mental health and ability to think. Therefore, removing unnecessary items and organizing spaces can be extra beneficial to those children who might already be struggling with keeping things in order.
Automatically clean out anything that doesn't fit or is no longer of interest. Then, looking at the remaining items, help your child sort things into three piles: must have, maybe, and good to go! Allow your child to pick a few of the maybe items to go with the must have pile. Many kids might need pushing to let go of some of their things. Another trick for younger children is to put away about half of the toys for 4-6 months. When you switch them out with their current toys, it will be like Christmas all over again. With social media and online marketplaces, donating and selling your used items couldn't be easier.
Organize spaces ergonomically
Once you have decluttered your child's space, think about organizing in a way that is most efficient. Having spaces that function well helps all children, especially those who are neurodivergent. Organizing and categorizing items such as books, clothing, toys, and games with clear sections, bins, and labels can make items easy to find, keep locations predictable, and potentially limit anxiety or stress.
Prioritize everyday items
We all know how it goes. You have a minute to get out the door and everyone is scrambling to find shoes, backpacks, and items they just had before bed. Think about the items your child needs each morning. Assign an area for shoes, backpacks, etc. The night before, charge laptops and devices needed for school and make sure all homework, books, and folders are in the backpack. Work with your child to set out an outfit the night before if picking out clothes presents a struggle.
Designate and organize a place for schoolwork
Homework time may cause challenges for many children. Start off this year with a clean slate and a fresh space designed to help your child's production and organization. If possible, pick a spot in your home which offers the least amount of distractions. Bedrooms full of toys, games, and devices or bustling kitchens might not be the most ideal place for your child to get work done. Unless your child is highly motivated and independent, we also suggest somewhere that is easily monitored.
You want the space to be inviting, but not overwhelming. Purchase a desk caddy or crate to hold supplies needed for schoolwork. Having an extra set of materials such as pencils, markers, glue sticks, and scissors at home gives your child one less thing to worry about carrying back and forth each day. Caddies also allow for flexible work locations, if necessary. Offering various seating options can benefit your child as well. Many children prefer to stand or lie on their stomachs. Work with your child to make sure the space is allowing them to be as successful as possible.
Finally, it is important to set up systems for how homework gets completed. Work with your child to decide what routine works best for them. Timers and schedules can be very helpful in this process. If you're feeling overwhelmed with establishing these routines, an executive function coach can help.
Create calendars and time schedules
Calendars, schedules, and to-do lists create predictability, accountability, and explicit reminders which can help children with disabilities immensely. Having a clearly marked weekly or monthly calendar for your child will help ease anxiety about the days and weeks ahead. Additionally, other visual reminders and lists can work to support your child's needs.
Involve your child
As with anything, making your child an active participant in this process will provide them with a sense of ownership and autonomy. We always strive for long term growth in independence. Start small and build independence so these things become a part of your child's routine and daily personal responsibilities (where possible).
With live-online services we are able to find related service professionals that will not compete against your ability to hire individuals in-district. We can reach IEP and 504 students from multiple sites, and offer flexible scheduling and pricing options.
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