So I’m cruising on Facebook and see this post on one of my Autism mommy groups written by a mother of 6 and how she is able to keep her home clean and organized. The comments under the post were mostly by furious exhausted autism mommys as they did not feel the post was even relevant to them and guess what, they are probably right ! House keeping and having a child and some more than one child with special needs brings house keeping to a whole different level. When my adult children were small(there were 6 of them)my house was a hot mess ALL the time ! Now I just have my 6 year old with autism and I have to tell you he can make 3 times the mess of all my children in half the time BUT my house is NOT a mess, not anymore anyway. I finally have this figured out after 35 years of raising kids. For me the question is not “how to clean a house with a VERY active 6 year old on the spectrum” its more “how not to get stuck cleaning your life away ! I have better things to do with my life than clean, so take it from an old pro, this IS how you can STOP cleaning SO much. Though my focus is mostly for families with kiddos with special needs this would also work for any family with small children.
TAKE OWNERSHIP OF THE TOYS ! :
Face it we love our kiddos and we want to get them their hearts desire but I’m going to be honest with you if you have a kiddo with autism and special interest they are probably only playing with a few of those toys, the other toys are more than likely just contributing to the billion things in this world that are over stimulating to them and triggering behaviors. Keep the few toys they are actually playing with and put the rest away. When I say put them away I mean, make them inaccessible even if you have to lock them up. I watch my lil mr and when he starts getting bored with those toys, I will go to the BIG toy box and exchange the toys in his little toy box. My guys has been playing with the same 4 super heros for the last week without complaint and seems waaay more content in not having to spred ALL the toys he owns out in front of him. The bonus is when he does exchange his toys its like Christmas everytime.
Make some of your childs toys work for you:
I have 2 boxes I keep up out of reach, one with games, one with art supplies, playdough and playdough toys. These are “special boxes. They only come out when I can sit and play with him and he earns them with accomplishing expectations(like cleaning up after himself). I really make these times special and give him my undivided attention when playing with these “special boxes BUT when we are done he helps me clean them up and they get put away.
ALWAYS, ALWAYS HAVE A MOTIVATOR:
We always have to clean up what we are doing before we can do something else, its just the way it is. With a kid with special needs if you want him to clean up ALL his toys you have to make that something he manage and be successful at and you always have to have a prize at the end. Some kiddos just need a kiss others need a prize box, the best thing you can do to get your kiddo more independent is to find out what motivates him and set him up to succeed. If that means you have to pick up 2 toys with him hand over hand and the reward is a M&M then do it.
KEEP A SCHEDUAL:
As we all know our kiddos work the best when they able to predict what is going to happen next. With my guy he plays with toys for 20 minutes in the morning, I set a timer,the timer goes off, he picks them up (his 4 super heros) and is motivated to do so by the next step on his schedule which is eating breakfast and watching one of his favorite shows, other wise we would get stuck on picking up the toys for the majority of the morning. I try to keep that carrot dangling in front of him all day, he does something hard and gains something good. Build in things that motivate him on the other side of things that are difficult for him and put it on the schedule until it becomes a habit. When he just does it automatically then build in something else.
The bottom line to not having a messy house is to not have the stuff readily available to mess it up with. Do nothing for your kiddo that he can do himself, don’t take that from him even if that means doing it with him hand over hand in the beginning…in the end he will be more confident and you will both have less chaos if you both know and follow through on the expectations. Always do things in the same order ” first get dressed, then put clothes in the dirty laundry” ect. this will help him become more independent and establish a habit.
Find out what your kiddo CAN do, what YOU can do to help him achieve those things and resolve that it WILL happen, if it takes a week or a year, fight for his independence and yours. Build in motivators in the areas you see him struggling.
For me when I decided we were moving into our tiny house I also had to take a long hard look at what we REALLY needed, it was tough but in the end it was a huge weight off my shoulders to have less stuff to be responsible for. Face it we parents of kiddos with special needs have a lot on our plates…it does become easier if we have fewer plates to clean. Less stuff and working hard at establishing good habits has been key for us and though we aren’t always successful we are a long way from where we were !
I hope these few tips have helped, I have many more where those came from so feel free to ask and to comment on things that have worked for your family. We all need to support each other because the job we have can be hard. I look forward to hearing from you all !!