Children with special needs require consistency so that they can better anticipate what is coming next.
No one functions well with chaos.
Your child will only show signs of frustration (i.e.: a meltdown) or anxiety if his days do not have some kind of regularity to it. This doesn’t mean that you can never stray from daily events. Instead, it means that when you do your child will have a point of reference and will be able to cope with the changes much more easily.
I find other people’s schedules fascinating. I love to see the written agenda of what a family’s typical day looks like.
And, because you might be wondering what our days look like, I thought it would be fun to give you a run-down. Just a heads-up that it’s nothing spectacular.
Note: It’s impossible for us to work on a schedule with exact times, so I’m sharing our daily rhythm instead.
Wake-up: The little guy is always awake before I’m ready. Snuggle-time and early morning stories – under the blankets.
Getting Started: Out of bed and downstairs we go. I empty the dishwasher as my son sits in his adapted seat listening to morning radio and flips through books. Sometimes, he’s really patient and can sit for the duration of the morning prep. Other times, he needs distractions or a change in position. He cannot be left unattended, so it’s important that he be nearby.
Breakfast: Administer medication and then breakfast together. I have to feed the little guy myself, so it’s a longer process.
TV-time: My son sits watching educational morning TV while I clean up the kitchen, then get myself ready.
Dress + wash-up: Dress the little man (+ brush teeth, comb hair, etc.)
Free play/ time in the walker: I quickly set-up/ finalize school materials. The planning is done the night before, but I never have enough energy at night to set-up materials. This is something I want to fix in the long-run because every minute I don’t give attention to my son means it’s one minute closer to a meltdown for him. We’re also working on having him learn to wait, and this is only one scenario where it’s important. The other is at meal-time.
Structured educational activities:
- Morning Circle (greeting songs, fingerplays, weather, story)
- Activities (1-2)
Outdoors activities: Depending on weather, we walk, go sledding, play/ swing in the yard, or sit by the river one street over and just sit quietly together taking in the sights, sounds, and smells. On gorgeous summer days, I bring one activity with us to work on under the willow trees at the nature park nearby.
Lunch prep while little guy is in the stander watching Signing Time Videos.
Respite for Mom: Caregiver comes to spend time with the little guy. They engage in physical activities while in walker or stander. They also have one-to-one time with toys and books. He gets a lot of movement during this afternoon period, thanks to the lovely ladies who encourage it on a daily basis. I do a little housework, run errands and/ or work during this block of time.
Rest period: Little guy gets a little couch time with caregiver. I continue to work.
Snack: My son gets his milk and a little snack. Mom and caregiver enjoy a coffee break before she leaves.
Meal-prep time: Little guy is back in the stander with an educational video of choice (sometimes, it’s Glee!) He also enjoys audio stories around this time. Mom prepares dinner. It’s important that my son be in a safe, hands-free spot while I prepare meals because I cannot get to him if my hands are deep in chopping foods or operating appliances.
Activity: A short educational activity at the adapted high chair, or outdoors if, weather permits.
Dad bonding time: Dad arrives and gets play time with the little man while mom closes up the kitchen.
Bedtime prep: Bath, PJs, quiet time
Work time for Mom: This is when I prepare the next day’s activities and when I complete some work.
What I didn’t include in this list is the numerous diaper changes, the time it takes to get his orthotics on and off and then place him in his equipment, and the occasional appointments or visits that happen throughout the week.
While the details of the activities change, the rhythm is quite static. I established this rhythm early in my son’s life so that by the time we were homeschooling, it was an easy in transition for us.
If you haven’t established this yet, I recommend you outline your daily rhythm. If you have no idea what you want it to look like, close your eyes and visualize your ideal day. Then, jot it down and tweak it according to your reality.
If you already have a daily rhythm established, ask yourself if you’re satisfied with it. What would you fix and when?
P.S. I offer a guided audio visualization in my eWorkshop Snap into Action: From Psychological Report to a Yearly Homeschool Plan to help you plan your ideal day. Use this tool to help you get started organizing your homeschool plans.