Day #30 Autism Acceptance Month concludes …

Today is the last day of Autism Acceptance month for 2015. With ASD, as the song goes, “Some days are diamonds, some days are stone!” In amongst the challenging moments, there are so many funny, rewarding and fantastic memories and stories. Along this road, with therapy and school, we can often tend to focus more on what the kids can’t do, as opposed to what they can do. We work on their weaknesses but sometimes forget to work to their strengths. If you are a teacher or a therapist or medical specialist, it’s worth thinking further upon this because as a parent we often only ever hear about the weaknesses, the difficulties. Sometimes, just hearing one positive comment can give your heart wings and it’s so valuable for our kids to hear this too.

If you are interested in learning more about Autism and following the story of my family, please join me on my Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Libby-Rosentreter/730709363617136?ref=hl

If you live in the Toowoomba area and you wish to learn more about the services in our area, please join my Facebook Page – Toowoomba Autism Noticeboard.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/ToowoombaAutismNoticeboard/

Thanks so much to all of you who have been reading and responding to my posts, and to those who have forwarded my posts on to others. I think that raising an awareness of Autism will go a long way towards fostering an acceptance of Autism. Diversity should be embraced in every way. Difference is to be celebrated.

We are all in this together – raising children, being in community, living and loving. Thanks for sharing the journey with me. xxx

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Day #29 My Top 20 Tips for parents of ASD Children

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My Top 20 Tips for Parents of ASD Children … in no particular order ….

1.  A diagnosis doesn’t change your child.  Your child is still the same beautiful child you met the day they were born.  A label does not change this.

2.  “If you’ve met one child with autism, you’ve met ONE child with autism”.  All our children are unique with their own personality traits, likes and dislikes.  Autism doesn’t change this.  It’s important for teachers and for parents to recognise that your child is unique and has their own individual strengths and challenges.

3.  You are the “expert” on your child.  Don’t be concerned with others opinions about how you choose to parent your child.  Nobody is more qualified to make choices and decisions about your child than you. Your opinions and concerns are valid and should always be given utmost respect and consideration by anyone working and interacting with your child.  Trust your instincts. Often our children aren’t able to articulate their thoughts and concerns like their peers can. If you think something is wrong, it probably is. When it comes to your child trust your paternal instincts about their capabilities and challenges.

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4.  Remember that behaviour is a form of communication for our kids.  Look beyond the presenting problem (behaviour) to identify the true source of the problem (trigger).

5.  Be informed.  Learn as much as you can about Autism and any other co-morbid conditions your child may have.  Read books and other literature, ask lots of questions of your specialists and therapists, join a local support group, participate in online forums and endeavour to connect with others who can help you remain knowledgeable and connected with ASD oriented happenings in your local area.

6.  Work on your child’s strengths.  So often we are focused on “fixing” or intervening in behaviours and challenges that we forget the huge value of your child’s strengths.  Perhaps your child loves horses or music or technology.  This could be a future career path for them.  Nurture, encourage and value these strengths both at home and at school.

7.  Self-care is extremely important.  “Rest and self care are so important.  When you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow.  You cannot serve from an empty vessel”.

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8.  Try new things.  Although our children can tend to love routine, structure and the familiar, don’t forget to provide opportunities for them to experience something new and exciting.

9.  Breaks! Breaks! Breaks!  Our children require regular breaks throughout the day whether at home or at school to ensure that their stress levels remain low.  These breaks will help with overall engagement in learning and interactions throughout the day, and they are important whether you’re at school, at home, at a party or out shopping.

10.  Look after your partner and your relationship.  Make time for one another and consider some regular counselling for the two of you to help manage the stress and to keep you both connected.

11.  Teachers – try to be sensitive to the stresses and needs of the parents.  They have been walking this road for some time before encountering you and they will be doing it long after your role in their child’s life is over.  You can make such a huge difference to the present simply by supporting, listening and by choosing to be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem.  The key to success with ASD kids is building a solid rapport with them and a great way to do this is through their personal interests!

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12.  Create a community of care around your family and your child.  Remember the saying – “it takes a village to raise a child”?  This is so very true.  Create a supportive community of therapists, teachers, friends and family who will support you and your child in the journey.  Work together as an interconnected team for a common purpose – the happiness, well being and progress of the child.

13.  Don’t get so wrapped up in intervention and therapy that you forget just to ‘be’.  Many parents feel a need to be constantly actively intervening and providing therapy for their child.  I think one therapy and one activity (such as swimming lessons) is enough in any one term.  If you do more, you will simply burn out.  Our children need time to play and enjoy being a child.  They need time to just ‘be’ and so do you as a parent!  Enjoy your children despite their challenges. Involve yourself in their interests and introduce them to your interests. Find activities you can do and enjoy as a family and always make time to connect and enjoy one another.

14.  Spend time with others who understand your journey.   Join an ASD support group and meet other families who can support you and provide you with mentoring when needed.  It’s really lovely to spend time with people who truly ‘get’ your situation and where your children can play and interact without judgement.

15.  Never be afraid to advocate for your child and be assertive when it comes to their needs.  If they require reduced attendance at school due to anxiety and/or fatigue – request it!  If you think school swimming lessons are too much due to anxiety and sensory issues – communicate that concern.  If your child is having huge meltdowns at the end of every day – talk to the school; communicate your concerns and be a part of creating a plan to improve this.  If you don’t think the prescribed course of therapy isn’t working for your child – voice your concerns.  Advocate and communicate.

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16.  Always remember that bumps in the road are to be expected.  We can’t learn if we don’t make mistakes and feel uncomfortable on occasion.  When things get tough, remember that they will eventually get better.  Just take things day by day, and try not to become overwhelmed when you hit those inevitable bumps in the road.

17.  Asking for help is really hard but it is important for your own well being and that of your family, that you learn to ask when you need help.  Many of us feel that asking for help is a sign of weakness or an admission that we are not coping.  Accepting help from someone else is allowing that person the opportunity to share their gift with you.  There are so many helpful things friends or family could do for you which would lighten your load eg grocery shopping; running errands (posting a letter, going to the Chemist, taking a pet to the vet;) taking non-ASD children out for a fun day; listening; minding non-ASD children for an hour whilst you attend therapy; doing your washing or ironing; preparing a meal.  “Ask for help, not because you are weak but because you need and want to remain strong!” (Les Brown)

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18. Remember that autism is a reason, not an excuse. Our children require parameters, boundaries and limits perhaps more than their typical peers do. Don’t be tempted to make excuses for poor behaviour/choices and encourage your child’s support team not to do this either. All children tend to try and often succeed in meeting our expectations – so let’s ensure our expectations of them are appropriate. “There is no passion to be found in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living” (Nelson Mandela).

19.  Disclosure.  In my view, disclosing your child’s diagnosis to those around them goes a long way to developing others’ understanding, tolerance and support for your child.

20.  Appreciate the small successes, the small improvements, the small gains.  Celebrate every small success!

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Day #28 An unexpected surprise … a radio program interview!

Today I got a message from a lovely friend asking if I’d like to participate in a radio interview about Autism. Of course, I excitedly said yes but was extra delighted to then discover that my intellectual crush, Dr Tony Attwood, would also be speaking on the same program. Eek! In our Autism household, people like Dr Attwood http://www.tonyattwood.com.au/ , Dr Temple Grandin http://www.templegrandin.com/ and Tim and Judy Sharpe http://www.laserbeakman.com/ (their TED talk is amazing!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=78VbeiAbcYI ) are our rock stars, our inspiration.

Today’s radio program today grew out of a discussion on yesterday’s program about Tyronne Sevilla – a young Townsville boy with autism who faces deportation due to his diagnosis, because he is a “burden on the system”. Today builds on this discussion and asks the question, “Is Autism a gift?” Dr Tony Attwood starts talking at about 3 minutes and I talk at 10 minutes.

I know it’s self- indulgent … but above is a picture of Dr Tony Attwood and I at a conference last year. I will admit I have another couple of these pictures taken with him over the years but this is the most recent one. To him, I’m sure I’m just another passionate mother and teacher which is understandable … but disappointing! He approved this picture in person so I hope he won’t mind my sharing this picture here.  We didn’t even speak or interact today … but simply being on the same program was enough for me.  Some people stalk rock singers and movie stars … my hero is Dr Tony Attwood.

Elly Bradfield … thanks so much for your invitation to participate in today’s discussion.  You’ve made my year – talking on the same program as Dr Attwood AND the opportunity to talk about a subject I’m so passionate about.  Thanks lovely lady xx

https://soundcloud.com/abc-queensland/is-autism-a-gift

Day #27 Justice must prevail!

As I mentioned in a previous post, Tom has a strongly developed sense of justice. Plenty of us (ASD or not) have a strong sense of justice, however it has been said that those with ASD often have a stronger sense or right and wrong because of their more black and white thinking – their values and beliefs can tend to be uncompromising and strong. Tom’s sense of justice extends to others having to follow the rules strictly during game play (of course this rigidity does not necessarily apply to himself), not getting into trouble for something he does not perceive as wrong (eg calling someone rude when they WERE being rude!) and also bearing a grudge against those who do unjust things to him, to others and especially to James!!!!!

One child, who we shall call “John” was routinely giving James a hard time. Now James was not always entirely innocent in all this however Tom was utterly incensed by John’s conduct and would not let it go. John’s name often came up in talk about the school day and Tom would become furious at the antics of this “rude, ignorant child” (his words!) over the course of the school day.

One day as we were disembarking from our car at the local shopping centre I heard Tom say urgently to James, “James! There’s that rude boy John over there!” I redirected them and we headed off up into the shopping centre to collect a few small items. The boys were animatedly talking to one another as I collected the bread and then headed towards the milk section. Tom said, “Mum, I’ll be back in a minute OK? I just need to go and get something!” and with that, he departed swiftly from my sight. It was only as I watched the back of him disappear that I had cause to wonder if this was in any way connected to John’s presence in the store. Sadly, I was right! Tom was quietly stalking John, waiting for his opportunity to tell John and his mother just how incredibly rude and ignorant his behaviour was. Yikes!

Another day I arrived at school to find James mid-meltdown over a soccer incident during which he had an altercation with two of his peers about the rules of the game (are you picking up on a theme here?) Tom was beside himself with fury about how James had been treated by the boys. There was much ranting from Tom about how he would “get those boys later” and that they should be “taken to the Principal’s office and sent away from this school forever!” and the old favourite “They will burn to pieces in the devil’s hideout!” Eventually, I got them both into the car. Each day I need to check that the boys have brought everything they need home with them. On this particular day James had forgotten his iPad which sent him off into meltdown mode again. Tom piped up with, “Don’t worry, James. I’ll go up and get it for you!” which I thought was lovely and helpful, and I told him so. Again, as I watched Tom’s pace pick up as he left the car I wondered if some form of retribution was about to occur. I was right! As he got back into the car he passed the iPad to James and said, “Well … THEY won’t be rude to you again! I have avenged you!” Apparently, they had been given a stern talking to as he indignantly departed from the classroom, iPad in hand.

Having a strong sense of right or wrong is to be valued, ASD or no ASD. It bears keeping in mind though for parents, teachers and friends of those with ASD children that they may often find it difficult to view a situation from another’s point of view. They can sometimes be very black and white, and uncompromising in their beliefs and thoughts. They may also bury their fury deep down and it may resurface out of nowhere at some later time. The best thing we can do is keep the lines of communication open and acknowledge their thoughts and concerns. I for one am pretty happy that these two boys have one another’s backs and that they are able to stand up for what they believe is right and good. Benjamin Franklin can rest assured that his hopes will be upheld.

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Day #26 Are you feeding the worry bug?

According to statistics, approximately 14% of Australians will be affected by an anxiety disorder in any 12 month period http://www.mindframe-media.info/for-media/reporting-mental-illness/facts-and-stats#Snapshot . Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health problem experienced by young people in Australia http://www.mindframe-media.info/for-media/reporting-mental-illness/facts-and-stats#C&Y . It is evident just by talking to young people and their families that anxiety is on the rise amongst our young people and it’s beginning at a younger age. Anxiety is experienced by many individuals with Autism.

Historically, it has often been said that individuals with Autism lack empathy and that they are not sensitive to the feelings of others. I challenge this – and many within the Autism community both those with Autism and academics such as Dr Simon Baron-Cohen, also challenge this notion. If there is a negative emotion in a room my boys will absorb it immediately. They may not understand what the emotion is or how to manage it, but they certainly experience it. Further, I have noticed that whatever my emotion level is, they tend to meet that level and sometimes go beyond it – I call this the “meet and beat phenomena”. If I am stressed, they also become stressed and often go beyond my level of emotion. This is called mood referral. I think that most children are susceptible to mood referral and as parents and educators of children in this environment where anxiety is on the increase we need to be acutely aware of this.

If we as parents are anxious and stressed, we are creating an environment of anxiety and stress for our children. We know this. As teachers, is we are anxious and stressed, we are also creating an environment of anxiety and stress for our students. We need to become aware of our own moods and emotions, and learn to regulate ourselves. We cannot teach our children to self-regulate if we ourselves are not able to do so.

Teachers are under so much pressure these days. They manage a crowded curriculum; hugely diverse student needs; hugely diverse parent needs; and their own personal situations. In many classrooms I have visited, this stress and anxiety is evident in every fibre of the teacher’s being. Their speech is urgent; they use words phrases like “quickly, get your books ready we have so much to get through this session”; they appear harassed, tired and almost seem emotionally unavailable – often so focused on getting through the work, that they are not plugged in to the kids and where they are at. For parents, it’s the same. We can become so preoccupied about getting from one place to another on time that we disconnect and also communicate our stress to our kids through our manner and person.

Children learn to self-regulate by having an adult co-regulate with them. We co-regulate with our kids by giving them verbal cues and talking them through the process of remaining calm and listening to their bodies. We also need to model good self-regulation strategies. I think that this process of co-regulation is lacking in our schools and in our homes, and I feel that this is why our children struggle to self-regulate well and therefore are more susceptible to things such as anxiety.

When your body experiences anxiety and stress, the body often goes into fight-flight, a natural process in which the body perceives a threat and prepares us for this. For some children, this response may manifest as anger, others may withdraw or retreat and some may present with problem behaviours such as defiance. Anxiety has many different presentations. We need to be aware of this also.

If I’m in a classroom or a home where the adult is anxious and stressed, this impacts upon my ability to learn effectively and to retain information. Anxiety and stress impact upon your working memory; can make you feel physically unwell and exhausted; and can cause restlessness, sleeping difficulties, school refusal and avoidance behaviours. Anxiety is in your DNA – the experiences of those in your family are passed on to you genetically, as yours are to your children. Chronic anxiety and stress can actually change your DNA. This bears thinking about doesn’t it?

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So how can we all help to ensure the children are equipped to recognise and manage anxiety and stress?

  1. We need to recognise and learn to manage our own stress first.
  2. We need to teach our children the skills they need to identify, communicate and manage their emotions.
  3. We need to co-regulate with our children, teaching them the language and processes needed to self-regulate.
  4. We need to provide lots of opportunities for our children to practice the skills they have learnt – role play, real life situations
  5. We need to access support services where necessary (some of these are listed below) for learning, awareness and help – counsellors, online support programs, apps, organisations.

If we don’t do something to address the problem of rising anxiety amongst our young people, I fear that the impact for them over time will be enormous and potentially tragic. I say this not to be alarmist, but in order to prompt you to action. Each of us need to work hard at our own local level to promote an awareness of anxiety, and to open the doors of communication about this very significant issue.

Anxiety Support:

Below are a number of resources to help you manage anxiety – there are some links to online resources, and there a number of suggested iPad Apps and books. I would encourage you to visit these links and make those around you aware of these fantastic programs and resources.

Interactive online resources:

The Brave Program. https://brave4you.psy.uq.edu.au/

“The Brave Program is an interactive, online program for the prevention and treatment of childhood and adolescent anxiety. It is recommended for children aged 8-17. The programs are free, and provide ways for children and adolescents to better manage their worries. There are also programs for adults.”

 

MoodGym https://moodgym.anu.edu.au/welcome

MoodGym is a free online resource designed for ages 15-25, but has also been found effective for adults. It is an interactive program consisting of a number of different modules which aim to help young people to identify and overcome problem emotions and develop good coping skills.

eheadpspace https://www.eheadspace.org.au/

eHeadspace is a confidential, free and secure space where young people 12-25 and their family can chat, email or speak on the phone with a qualified youth mental health professional.

Organisations:

 

Beyond Blue http://www.beyondblue.org.au/

Kids Helpline http://www.kidshelp.com.au/

Headspace http://www.headspace.org.au/

Apps:

Positive Penguins – The four positive penguins take you on an interactive journey to help you understand that feelings arise from your thinking and if you challenge your negative thoughts successfully you may be able to see things in a more realistic and even optimistic way.

https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/positive-penguins/id570371342?mt=8

Fear Shrinker – audio enabled app for children 4-8 who are scared or worried.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/FearShrinker/id469073687?ls=1&mt=8

Calm Talk – a simple and visual way to help children to self-calm using the “I feel – I need” model and lots of visual supports.

https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/calm-talk/id668393731?mt=8

Feel Electric – explores emotions, facial features, stories about emotions, mood journal, games to teach emotional vocabulary

https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/feel-electric!/id463493101?mt=8

Emotion Detective – understanding body language, identifying emotion of a conversation and people in context, emotional vocabulary

https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/emotion-detective/id523056642?mt=8

Apps – Books:

“Wince – Don’t feed the worry bug” – Wince overcomes his worries and banishes the Worry Bug. https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/wince-dont-feed-worrybug-full/id575817080?mt=8

“The Kissing Hand” (separation anxiety, school anxiety) https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/the-kissing-hand/id582477486?mt=8

“Bye Bye Butterflies” – This solution-focused children’s book teaches seven strategies for self-regulation and stress management. The Home practice exercises provide an opportunity for creative expression, self-awareness, and self-care. The audio Relaxation exercises offer guided meditations for calming the body and the mind.

https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/bye-bye-butterflies-seven/id656557135?mt=8

Day #25 “My way or the highway” – the rigid thinker.

Tom has clear ideas about how things should happen – he is the consummate rigid thinker. If something is not on his trajectory, he will either take it head on, explode or completely ‘blank’ it. Remember the Seinfeld episode about ‘blanking’ (or ignoring) others? Tom is the master. If we see people at the shops and it is a surprise and therefore not on his trajectory, he will simply ‘blank’ whoever it is, especially if it’s someone not well known to him. Apologies to all those who have fallen victim to the ‘blank’.

Earlier this week Tom asked me for some ice in a cup. As a usual rule, ice in a cup is crushed ice made in the Thermomix. Apparently this wasn’t on his trajectory either. When he came out to the kitchen to collect his ice, he looked disgustedly at the cup of crushed ice. He muttered under his breath, “Well… that’s disappointing!” I asked him what was wrong. His response – “I’m just very disappointed that you didn’t follow my directions. I just wanted blocks of ice, not that ice!” I’m sure you can guess what my response was. He does not perceive this interaction as inappropriate. To him he is simply relaying exactly what he is thinking. He doesn’t realise how rude it is and struggles to see the interaction from my point of view.

Saying goodnight to Tom is also interesting. He’s become more flexible in many other aspects of his day but he has very definite ideas about his bedtime routine. Tom takes an icepack and a heated wheat bag to bed with him every night. These are specific items and they need to be heated or cooled to his specifications. He will decide whether a book needs to be read or not, and which specific book he would like to hear. He has definite ideas about how the story should be read – no silly voices, no skipping pages, he likes to hold the book and he likes to turn the pages. As you leave the room he will accept a cuddle and say goodnight, but he will then say, “OK mum, you can go now, and shut the door please!” In other words, this interaction has been terminated as my routine is now complete and I’m ready to sleep now.

Being overly rigid in your thinking can make many things in life more difficult for you – unexpected changes can be upsetting; you may become so bound by your routines that you don’t try new things; you can tend to want to boss and direct others in order to ensure that your goals are met; and you can struggle to see things from someone else’s perspective. A flexible thinker is able to manage changes when they happen, try new things and see things from another’s perspective. It’s easier for a flexible thinker to make friends because they are better able to compromise and consider the feelings of others. So how do we teach flexible thinking to our rigid thinkers?

I read a post on the Connected Families website some time back, entitled “How a pipe cleaner can stop your child’s meltdowns” http://connectedfamilies.org/2013/03/12/how-a-pipe-cleaner-can-stop-your-childs-meltdowns/ . The article suggests that we can teach children the value of flexibility by comparing pipe cleaners to popsicle sticks. The pipe cleaner is flexible – it can bend when it wants to but it still has a backbone, and it can always return to the way it was. On the other hand, popsicle sticks are inflexible and rigid, when we bend them they break, they explode. This analogy then gives you a way to discuss these choices with your child and you can then reference it when necessary. I thought this was a great strategy. Please click the link above if you’re interested in reading more.

So as I type this last little bit of text, I can hear Tom reading a Scooby Doo book to his father and I can hear a host of instructions as well – “Dad, lie down here OK?; Dad, please don’t move the ice pack, it needs to stay here!; No Dad, I’m going to hold the book; Dad you don’t need to help me OK?: No Dad, I didn’t ask you do Scooby’s voice, I’m doing the reading tonight!” But just when I’m thinking there’s no hope of any “pipe cleaner” like behaviour tonight, I’m given a glimmer of hope! “OK Dad, you can do Scooby’s voice if you want!” followed by the lustiest and most mischievous of giggles from Tom as Chris bellows loudly, “Rooby, Rooby, Rooooo!”

'Let's get a few things straight. No speed reading, no silly voices, no skipping pages...'

Day #24 A place for everything, and everything in its place!

I’ve always loved organisation, order, routine, schedules, lists! Whilst I’ve always had this natural need for order, having two children with needs has made me more inclined (some might say rather ‘high end’!) towards order. Being organised means that you have more room to move when things don’t go according to plan or if someone is really out of sorts. Routines and organisation help to make our household run in a much less stressed way.

A number of mothers have asked me recently what I do in my house to keep things organised because they genuinely really struggle to keep on top of everything. I want to be absolutely clear about something. We are all different aren’t we? Some people naturally have good organisation skills and others require more support with it. As mothers, parents we already give ourselves a hard enough time so please don’t add “poor organiser” to the list. I offer these ideas simply as short cuts you may not have considered, it’s not meant to make you feel inadequate or guilty. The most useful thing I’ve learnt with regard to household organisation is that you need to plan, you need to delegate tasks, you need to involve everyone in the house, you need to ask for help, and you need to give explicit instructions. This is how an average week runs for us.

1.  Therapy programs and documentation.

I plan what therapy we will address and when at the start of each school year. We generally cannot manage more than one therapy per child at any one time. I’ve also discovered that we work better with 6 week blocks followed by 6 weeks consolidation at home. I think we get far better value for money this way and the boys can maintain interest for 6 sessions. Talk to your therapist and discuss what your needs are. The boys love to swim and generally swim at least once a week for recreation. We like to do one formal swimming lessons block per year.

I have a lever arch folder for both boys. Every time we get a speech program, an IEP, a report card, a doctor’s letter … I file them all into the folder which is divided into sections with coloured tabs. The folders live in a large plastic crate on their own. If I’m short on time I will just put the paperwork into the crate loosely on top of the folders until a later date when I have the time to file things properly. Having the folders together is great for doctor’s appointments and IEP meetings when you may need to be able to get your hands on specific information about your child quickly. Special art work, school awards etc also go into the crate.

As documents come in, particularly medical or therapy reports, I have begun scanning them or requesting an electronic copy so that I can forward them to the school or to medical specialists via email when necessary. I have an electronic folder for both boys where I keep any emails, scanned reports or other information that may be useful down the track. I also take photos of any art or other work and save this into that same folder with the date. If I didn’t do this we’d be bursting at the seams with all kinds of creations and pieces of paper.

I have a small crate for both boys on the kitchen table. I keep their current therapy programs, home school programs, schedules etc in there. When you’re packing school bags and ensuring you have your therapy folders with you on the right days, it’s helpful to be able to place your hands on them quickly.

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2.  Groceries and cooking.

Each weekend I plan the menu for the week and write my shopping list from there. I do my shopping on the weekends as I find this much less stressful as I don’t need to take the boys with me. I like to freeze meals. I tend to cook more than what I need of an evening and then freeze the leftovers. These are then great, quick lunches or an easy reheat for busy nights.

I own a Thermomix – the best thing I’ve ever bought and I also love my crockpot. These two items allow me to cook a couple of meals at once and give me greater flexibility with time management. I often load the crockpot up in the morning and leave it on all day whilst we are at school and work. When we get home all the hard work is done!

I also like to bake on the weekends (cupcakes, muffins, biscuits) and freeze these for the boy’s school lunches throughout the week.

3.  Little luxuries.

I know that money is tight for many families so not all homes have funds for “extras”. We are fortunate enough to have a few “extras” each week that makes things a bit easier. We allow for one tuckshop day for the boys each week. We also allow one takeaway night per week (usually a hot chicken and chips or pizza – something we will all eat). I plan these extras around our routine for the week. If I know we are going to have a long tough day of a Wednesday, then that will probably be the take away night.

4.  Washing.

I wash every day. There are four of us and if I don’t wash every day I find that the washing just gets out of control and it seems an insurmountable task. I collect all the washing after everyone has showered of an evening. I then load everything into the washing machine straight away. The only exception to this is delicates or whites which I will put aside and wash every other day or when there are sufficient items for a wash. Sheets and towels are a weekend job.

In the warmer months, I wash at night and hang the washing out to dry overnight. In the cooler months, I start the wash the following morning and then hang it out.

I put business shirts, uniforms etc on hangers to dry as this significantly reduces the need to iron.

I bring the washing in at the end of each day. I have a small area in my laundry designated for folding and I fold things straight away.

I have a small ironing stand where I place any items that require ironing. It lives in the corner of our study, out of sight.  I iron on the weekends. It’s an easy job as everything is already in one place, on hangers and usually they only require a quick press as most of the wrinkles have fallen out by then due to hanging.

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5.  Cleaning.

The boys are responsible for cleaning and tidying their own rooms. They are also responsible for ensuring that if they make a mess with toys etc that they must clean it up. At the end of every day their rooms need to be tidy, clothes put away, books and toys put away. Before we leave of a morning beds needs to be made (we still provide assistance with this) and their rooms need to be tidy.

The rubbish goes at as we leave every morning. The boys often do this job.

The fridge is cleaned out once a week, the night before the bins go out for rubbish collection.

Weekends. I wash my floors once a week on the weekends. I do a whole house vacuum of a weekend and just do a quick touch up with a handy vac where required across the week.

Any extra washing of bed linen, towels, hand washing only items is done on the weekend. The bathrooms get done of a weekend and as needed across the week. My husband and I split these jobs up of a Saturday morning and just get it over with! My husband likes to be involved but requires direction and for tasks to be delegated to him (sound familiar?)

Apart from the larger weekend clean, generally we just do a quick clean up each morning and we all do a quick clean up at the end of every day. This really helps to keep on top of clutter and general cleaning jobs.

6.  Mornings.

In the mornings, (when my back is good) I get up a good hour before everyone else and go for a walk – sometimes on my own, sometimes with friends. It’s a spectacular time of day. When I get home, I wake the boys, turn the washing machine on, and then I sort breakfast whilst the boys get dressed (they still need some help with buttons and laces). My husband has his shower and gets himself organised. I then organise the lunch boxes and get the water bottles. I dispense medication and ensure the boys eat something.

When my husband is ready he comes out and sorts the bedrooms and beds, cleans up the kitchen and sends the boys to brush teeth etc. I have my shower and get myself sorted.

My husband and I then have our breakfast together often watching the news. By the time my husband leaves for work the boys are organised and bags are packed.

I usually have about 20-30 minutes at his point before we need to leave the house. I use this time to hang out the washing, run the handy vac over any untidy areas and do a quick clean up where needed. I also ensure that we have and therapy materials we may need for the day.

7.  Afternoons.

I have an old sideboard in the garage. There is a space for each boy’s school hat, school shoes and school bag. The boys leave their bags here each afternoon as we get out of the car. They put their shoes and hat straight away, and bring their lunch boxes and water bottles into the kitchen.

home 2

The boys get out of their school uniforms as soon as they get home from school every day and change into clothing of their choice. This moves them from school to home mode.

I give them some afternoon tea and then we commence home school and therapy programs. Tom always goes first, then James. At the end of each boy’s time we talk about what is happening the next day and ensure that anything they need for the following day is packed into their school bags.

Between about 4-5:30pm the boys like to go outside. We have a street filled with children which is lovely. They ride scooters and bikes, play bull rush and generally burn off some energy together. Sometimes I go outside too and sometimes I do need to intervene but overall the kids just play happily which is amazing and so good for them.

8.  Dinner.

I feed the boys early – generally around 5:30-6pm. If I leave it any later they just don’t eat well and if they are particularly hungry I may even feed them earlier. They eat their dinner up at the breakfast bar in the kitchen. I dispense medications to the boys. I also prepare the meds for the following morning, placing each child’s meds in an airtight container.

Whilst the boys eat dinner, I prepare lunches for the following day and we chat about the day. I also then do any pre-prep I can do for my husband and my dinner.  We eat together as a family on the weekends when time is not as tight.

During dinner I fill the bath. I do this for a few reasons. First of all, the boys hate the noise of the bath filling and secondly because I use Epsom salts, coconut oil and essential oils in the bath and they need time to dissolve and settle. Immediately after dinner, James has the first bath and then Tom has his. Once baths are finished, this is the time of day when the boys play a computer game, video game or iPad game of choice. This gives me an opportunity to complete any jobs I need to do. My husband generally then arrives home and helps out where necessary.

9.  Boys Bedtime.

At 6:30pm we all watch a TV program together – the boys choice – usually Tom and Jerry or similar. At 7-7:30pm the boys go to bed. Depending on the day, we read a book with the boys or just have a ‘private talk’ with them in their beds, one parent with each child or all in our bed together! It’s my favourite part of the day with lots of cuddles and calm.

10.  After the kids are in bed.

I made my own rule when the kids were little that once they went to bed at night I would down tools for the day. This motivates me to keep to my routine throughout the afternoon. My husband and I have our showers as soon as the boys go to bed and then we have our dinner together. He cleans up the kitchen whilst I cook and prepare, and we have time to chat. The kitchen is clean and ready for the morning rush. The night is then free for us to enjoy as we see fit. If one of us has a commitment at night time, we can leave at 6:30-7pm knowing that all is sorted at home and that the boys will be settled.

11.  Our bed time.

I used to be terrible at going to bed at a decent hour because I’d so enjoy those quiet hours after the boys were asleep. What I am learning however is that it’s actually far better to go to bed at an earlier hour (9:30pm) and have a good, restful night’s sleep so that I’m able to face the next day feeling refreshed and full of energy. When I go to bed at 9:30pm I sometimes do a crossword, read a book or play a game on my phone. The upside of going to bed early is that when I’m tired I’m then already in bed to catch that sleep wave as opposed to nodding off on the couch. I have recently resolved to try hard not to use my iPhone, Facebook or watch TV after 9:30pm. Work in progress!

So in that rather long-winded way, that’s how we run things here. It’s not necessarily a routine that would suit everyone but it works well for us. Generally, we manage to keep on top of everything and things rarely get too far away from us. Having a sense of order and a routine to the day helps my boys hugely and it also helps me. The routine that is in place ensures that everyone plays their part in keeping our home orderly and organised. “A place for everything, and everything in its place” means less stress on me and more time for us as a family. Winning!