Mission Statement

To provide a place for parents and family members to meet and share experience, strength, give hope and awareness, to other families who have similar experiences raising children with ADD/ADHD, SPD, Anxiety, ASD, mental health diagnosis, developmental and behavioral challenges. Through sharing in this experience of raising these hard to raise kids, we grow stronger and more resilient.

Easy to Love is a 501 (C) (3) Non-Profit Organization

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Schedules for Special Needs Families {& a giveaway!}

At my core I am a planner.  I also was a teacher.  I quickly learned that the best way to keep my students on track and learning regardless of what emergency took me out of the classroom, was ROUTINE.  I also ironically was the teacher that was willing to take on the higher functioning autistic kids.  So, of course - God brought me one of my very own.  I am convinced because he knew I could handle it.  I wish I was one of those parents that loved to scrapbook and craft, but sadly I am not.  I feel there are many other ways I'd like to spend my time.  So, I schedule and plan and use many electronic tools.  

One of the basic things I have used, is just that simple, routine.  We wake at the same time.  We have the same chocolate milk every morning.  The kids get 1 hour of TV in the morning and then by 7:30 a.m the TV is off.  I have even gone so far as to have the sleep timer on the TV set to sleep at 7:30 a.m. and hid the remote. Then it's dress, wash, brush and back down for breakfast.  I start getting them in the car 10 minutes before I need them in the car so that I don't need to scream and sometime they are fast and they sit in the car until I can grab all I need and get to the car.  Bed time is also a routine and the time rarely fluctuates.  

On Sunday nights, I also put all of of the outfits the boys are going to wear into a 5 pocket bin in their closet.  I include undies, socks, shirt and pants.  That way I don't have a whole lot of time wasting in the morning.  Sometime the older one is way into having more of a say so so he helps put it together on Sunday.  This also gives us a chance to talk about the week ahead and take a look at the calendar he has posted on the wall.  

Visual calendars have also been quite helpful for me.  What I mean by that is that I use a calendar with big enough squares, like a desktop size, or I have even found a wall laminate one to draw pictures of what is going happen in the days days ahead. If my husband is going to be out of town, I can draw what will happ on the days leading up to my husbands return. "One more sleep until Dad gets home."

One more thing that I have to say I use less and less is an idea called "backwardschaining."  When I was trying to get Hudson to dress himself, he had trouble with the order of the steps.  So I made a chain of pictures in backwards order, something like this,
Pants: button the pants, zip the zipper, then pull the pants to your waist, do you see your toes?, then your right leg, do you see your toes?, put in your left leg, unzip the zipper, unbutton the button, put the pants in your lap.
His job was to follow the chain of pictures to the top that culminated in the successful picture of him with his pants on.  It sounds weird but it worked and he dresses himself now.

I also love love love an app called iPrompts, $39.99  I use it on my iPad and on my phone. It was pretty pricey for an app, but I needed something that was easy to use and that could help with both my kids not just the special needs one.  iPrompts assists me in making picture schedules on the fly and also allows me to make countdown timers.  I used this a lot when l needed to set a time limit on video games and the TV or just set a timer on sharing a toy.  I can search the web for an image or even just upload one of my own.  Uploading my own images was really helpful when we were adjusting to a new bus driver or any new schedule, because I could use actual pictures of Hudson and Hudson's new bus driver.  Effective and no laminating!

I hope all of this is helpful.  I have to say that all of this organizing for the kids all goes out the window if I haven't been organized enough to take care of myself.  I think the thing that is most helpful for me is to get enough sleep.  I go to bed at 9 and wake up at 5 a.m. to have some quiet time to myself before the day begins.  If I don't get enough sleep it derails the whole day.  Best of luck to you.  Let us know what you are doing to keep your kids moving forward.

Like Jen, I have always been one to appreciate a schedule; I am a “planner” by nature and have never been one to fly by the seat of my pants. Before Emma it was just something I did, after Emma (and my ah ha moment!) I realized that that way of life was the only way if I wanted to keep my sanity and for Emma to thrive. Emma has anxiety, she likes knowing what to expect. If she feels like she has some type of control over things that are going on it really helps ease some of the anxiousness.  By creating visual schedules for her, she felt like she was in control and we avoid meltdowns and anxiety. When Emma was 3, I created our first visual schedule. It was a flip book made with 4X4 pieces of cardstock. I used a variety of pictures, clip art & hand drawn doodles for almost all aspects of our life that I could easily switch around for each day.  We used this for about a year & then switched to a less rigid type of schedule, one sheet with small photos and an overview of our day. Here is what that looked like, I had a sheet for different times of our day and the activities that went with them. 
We have just now gotten to a point we are not using a visual schedule for our entire day.  Before bed we go over what our plans are for the day and will draw a few of the major things on a small dry erase board. If she seems to be feeling anxious about something I will have her go and take a look at it in her room. It was a slow progression to have her let go of some control and move to a less restrictive schedule. One thing that we have not been able to get rid of yet are social stories. If there is a big event or change, I create a quick doodle book of what to expect and when. We have a crazy few months of weddings, me going on vacation and other family events. All of these are stressful and busy and she will need to know ahead of time what to expect. I am actually contemplating switching over to a social story app... it sounds so much easier than drawing everything!
As a family we do maintain a structured schedule.  Morning routine and bedtime are all consistent and rarely deviate. Sometimes things happen but for the most part we all know what to expect. On occasion there is some resistance to what needs to be done (bed usually) but very little. She will argue for a minute and then just go and lay down, she knows it is not something that is up for discussion.... now if she actually sleeps or not is a different story entirely! Our afternoons are less structured but we still have a general schedule that we follow. 
I also have a “command center” in our mudroom with a dry erase calendar and bulletin board for each child and all of their different papers from school. This is our hub - everything is on that calendar. My mom & I share a house and I care for my brother (Ethan - 8 yrs. old) during the day, having all of our appointments & to do's in one place is a life and sanity saver.  I also always have a day planner and my home management binder. All of these things help keep our crazy  life organized. We have so much going on from appointments, extracurricular, work schedules etc. I know that our lives would be unmanageable without the structure and schedules we have. Perfect it is not, and there are days or a few of them in a row that I drop the ball and the schedule gets lack. The funny thing is, on those "break" days, our days are much harder. There is more fighting, crabby kids, crabby mom and I don't get nearly as much done.
Now time for the giveaway, which of course is something to help you get organized! Our giveaway is a Family Planner (home management) binder with blank calendars, notes pages, menus, zipper pouch & business card holder. It is also 3 ring so you can add to it! You will also get an ‘On the Go Filer’. I use this for all things Emma – it has medical info, school info, paperwork I need to fill out etc. It is so nice to have all of her info in one spot that I can just grab and go.  

To enter you must be a follower on this blog & leave a comment on this post letting us know how what type of schedule you are using, don’t forget to leave your name & email so we can let you know if you are the winner. The giveaway will close on Thursday May 4th @ 1155apm and the winner will be announced Friday! Good luck, we can’t wait to hear what works for you!


  1. I use a day planner for all appt. ,but I do need somewhere to store med records that I need. I also need to be better about showing my kids what is going on.
    Anna Madry

  2. I love the idea of having the outfits set out for the week. I am going to strive to do that. My best schedule help is my ASD child, he is my calendar and reminder for important dates. He knows everyones birthday, anniversary and holiday. If I tell him about an appointment he will obsess about that until it happens. Otherwise, I just use the calendar on the wall, that he changes over if a new month has changed.