The Growing Pains of Helping Your Exceptional Child Get Organized- 5 Things NOT To Do

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So this morning yet again we had a minor battle in getting ready for school. Ok, I had the battle while Michael got up and moved VERY SLOWLY wondering what the big deal was? I was trying so hard to be one hundred percent calm. I did about an eighty percent good job I’d say, only blowing my top near the end when the bus arrived and Michael was still putting on his boots and jacket. Sigh. At least he MADE the bus today, not like the other few days this week where I ended up driving him in not due to him deliberately trying to miss the bus, but due to getting up late, moving slowly, and not understanding that he did not have the same amount of time when he got up at 7:30 am and the bus came at 8:00 am versus when he got up at 7:00 am. Sigh again. The medicine he is taking does make him a little sleepier, but we still had this battle from time to time without medication. What is the culprit, you might ask? One word. Sequencing, parents. In other words, making sure one thing flows smoothly into the next without stress. This is SO hard for kids with autism, ADHD, learning disabilities and delays of all sorts. It can, however, be taught. It just requires patience, and learning from one’s mistakes if we make them. And though I know better, I have still forgotten and made mistakes from time to time.

So what things would I avoid when trying to help Michael get organized in the future? Here are 5 of them:

1) Don’t Rush Them: This is SO not helpful yet so normal. When a parent  sees the time flowing and that they must get to work and get their child out the door, they will inevitably start rushing and yelling at their child. At this point, it will just make things worse. Try to slow down your breathing and calmly tell them what comes next. Then step away.

2) Don’t Do It For Them: Again, this is normal. In the heat of the moment, it’s ok to help them pack that bag and hand them their coat to make the bus, class on time. But on a regular basis, it is important to make sure that they get organized (dressed, bag packed, lunch made etc.) themselves. The way to do this is by having a picto or written sequence available for them to look at in advance and study. This way they know what to do ‘in the moment.’

3) Remember the difficulties they have in planning out a schedule from start to finish: This means keeping in mind that there is nothing wrong with their brain. It is just WIRED differently and needs different ways to organize and move ahead. This means the aforementioned schedules, visuals, and discussions at their level about what is expected to unfold.

4) Step back when they make a mistake and help them learn from it.: When they make a mistake and you see it, remind them it’s ok and that they could learn from it. Give them options and depending on their age, ask them what they think might work. Remind them, we all make mistakes.

5) Be prepared to repeat the lesson A LOT before it is learned: And THIS is a tough one, especially for parents. Our kids with autism and other challenges need repetition. They need to learn the same sequence of events, and then learn to generalize it to other contexts. Let me say that this is not for the fainthearted parent. Make sure you are calm, in a Zen place, and feeling patient when you support them. You will need to do this many times before they grasp the lesson. They are intelligent, but their brains speak a different language than yours.

Exceptional Parents, what successes and failures have you had with your child in helping them with getting organized at any time of the day? Remember, it is all about routine, predictability, and control, at least as much as they are in it. Be patient with your child and be patient with yourselves, as you are this journey of learning together how to understand each other. It will pay off in the end. Until next time.


Feeling stressed about special needs parenting? You are not alone. I have been there and lived these very words before realizing the gift of who my son is and what he has helped me realize. Besides the wonderful professionals we have worked with and continue to work with, family, friends, Mom friends in particular, make up mine and Michael’s biggest cheering section.  If you want to have more information about me and my journey, check out my website and my FREE E-BOOK “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL PARENTING” at

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