We have this little game at our house. What happens is this: We lose stuff. We find it months later in the MOST BIZARRE places you can imagine. I’m completely serious. I once found my DSLR camera manual in my son’s underwear drawer. The other day a random sock monkey fell from the ceiling when my daughter bumped a ceiling tile. Would you look for a sock monkey in your ceiling? Like with your wiring and stuff? Me either. Luckily, I have a very twisted sense of humor and when said monkey fell into my 5 year old’s lap and she screamed like a giant spider just fell from the ceiling, I busted up laughing. She didn’t appreciate it at the time, but maybe when she retells the story in say… 25 years, she will begin to appreciate my humor.
When I am looking for something important like maybe a credit card or something that I KNOW an intelligent and responsible adult like myself would never, ever lose, I have to remind myself that maybe I’m not losing my mind. Maybe T man knows where it is; because he usually does. About 99.98% of the time he has found a thing interesting and done something interesting with it. He got a toy moose and named it Bob. He told me he fed Bob to the cows but when we searched the cow pen and didn’t find Bob, he remembered that he thought it would be SUPER funny to stick Bob on a stick so he was taller than all the other toy animals in my niece’s toy room. Bob was the ruler of all toy animals. Buzz Lightyear lost his post to Bob. Sound familiar? Do you have a child with special needs who struggles with organization?
So in summary, ADHD + Down Syndrome is fun. Really, most of the time I just laugh because the ideas that he has usually make total sense after I figure them out. Then, usually they are ridiculously funny. My son is absolutely the smaller version of my husband who is the life of every party. (If you know him, you are laughing. In my head, I see you smiling!) Our house is weird.
Then there are the times when you nearly kill yourself stumbling over a dinasaur-standing-on-top-of-lego-mansion creation that you didn’t know existed because the bedroom is such a chaotic mess that you can’t see the floor. You stumble over that just to fall on top of the toy spider that’s as big as your hand. (NOT FUNNY, GRANDMA. You know who you are. That toy went to the mission!)
There’s an acceptable amount of chaos and then there’s the kind of chaos that causes you to lose your mind and make you think you are going to be the star of the next “Hoarder”s episode. That’s where I draw the line. I’m fine with a few toys here and there as long as they get put away. We live in our house and I don’t think any magazine is going to come photograph it anytime soon. (Unless you want to pay for a remodel and an addition, in which case, I can accommodate the tidiness to meet your expectations!)
T-Man’s room was about to reach “Hoarder’s” status. I couldn’t take it any more. So my husband took the kids to a friend’s house tonight and I cleaned. Here was my strategy:
- 1 bag was for the MISSION. I’m a Christian and I feel like I donate a lot but when it comes to my kids’ things, sometimes there is a sentimental value. The kind that makes you think “Oh, I remember when they were this little…. they will never be this little again. I should keep this.” No. No you should NOT keep it. What purpose is it going to serve you? You have a smartphone and 334,908 photos of your child at that age. Don’t keep the thing. There is a little boy or girl somewhere that would love it just as much as your child. Let them have it. Relish in the thought that you are sharing a piece of you and your love with your family with someone else. Then let go of the thing. We have 2 cousins that give us hand me down clothes for T, so we have a LOT of clothes. It’s kind of ridiculous. There is no need for that. I wanted to keep some because they were our cousins, but that was dumb. If we hadn’t taken them, they would have given them to the mission. So if there was a shirt that he doesn’t wear often, it went in the mission bag. There is NO REASON for it to be shoved in the back of a drawer at our house when there are children in need. Don’t hesitate to give. Pare down on the amount of stuff your child is responsible for and it will be easier for them to maintain the tidy room.
- The other bag was for the TRASH. Again, I’m mushy and weirdly sentimental. I know they made 15 crafts at VBS this year, and all 10 years before that. That is 150 crafts that are collecting dust. (I don’t really go that long between purgings, it was just an illustration.) I HATE throwing away things they made, but I also believe that if we are going to live in an acceptable home environment, we just can’t keep it all. Keep 1 or 2 favorites and the rest needs to go. I keep a plastic tub with hanging file folders with each kids’ name and the year in it. I keep all things that have hand prints, foot prints, photos, IEPs, grade cards, etc. in that tub. They will have plenty of keepsakes to show their kids someday. What we don’t need is for someday my husband and I to pass away and leave the kids with 45 years of stuff to sort through. We’ve been married 14 years now and already periodically go through the house and purge stuff we don’t need. I cannot imagine keeping all of the stuff for that long. That is insane.
- Teach ROUTINE. I made pictures to go on each clothing drawer to indicate where to put things. I considered adding a sample, but what works for me may not work for you. T Man is at the stage where he understands more abstract ideas but can’t read the text so I used cartoon type images to represent shirts, pants, jackets, socks, underwear, etc. However, your child may not developmentally be at that level yet. It might be better for you to take actual photos of your child’s clothing and put them on the fronts of the drawers. Or, conversely, if your child can read, then don’t use the additional visual support. Please reduce support as you can and just provide text labels. But label where you want everything. Then the first few rounds of putting toys and laundry away, do it with them and model what you expect them to do. I’m a firm believer in Anita Archer’s “Explicit Instruction” techniques where you model “I do, We do, You Do” strategies. That is exactly what I learned when going through the Autism Specialist training. Then for years afterwards, I have been able to see how wildly successful it can make students.
Maybe none of this resonated with you. Maybe you’ve had a sock monkey fall on your head. Maybe you’ve found your eyeglasses in the lawn mower (too late) and your keys in the freezer. Maybe you and I are living the same life. Maybe not. I don’t know. But if my experience can help you, I’m happy to be of service. If you know anyone who may be interested in this, please share the love and click on social media share buttons below! I’d also be delighted if you would sign up for the newsletter so you and I can be BFFs and learn from each other how this whole special needs parenting/ teaching world goes round. I’ll never spam you and always show the love!
Until next time!