Managing a Household with Neurodivergencies (ADHD, ASD, etc.)

Earlier this week my friend Sam posted on Facebook, “Neurodivergent Friends what are some tools you use with others that help you with daily life, communication, relationships?”

A few friends posted that they needed help with meal prep, day-to-day stuff, and as y’all know, that’s my bag, baby!

Both my kids are Neurodivergent (ADHD/ASD and ADHD), and their dad has ADHD (combined type/ C) and because of that, we’ve had to make some adjustments to our daily life and how we function. And while our processes and schedules may not work for everyone, hopefully, these tips give you some idea and hope if you need it.

Some of these directly affect/benefit the kids, and some make my life easier, which in turn makes their lives easier.

Having an accurate(ish) pantry, fridge, and freezer inventory. I have made my own sheets in the past (using Canva), but the ones from Organized Home are great.

Meal Prep and meal planning (this includes using Dream Dinners once every few months). This frees up time each night to read, hang out, bathe, and get kids ready for bed.

Meal Prep can be as easy as cut up veggies, fruit, pre-portioned foods, and easy meals or side dishes prepared in advance that only need to be heated up to avoid wasting money eating out because “there is nothing to eat”. Also having one night for take-out. And I have a whiteboard that lists our meal plan for the week- I try and post it weekly on Instagram.

The Snack Box- I also organized our fridge and pantry to be more ND-friendly. Stuff that should be eaten (healthy food like fruit, cheese sticks, yogurt, etc.) is at kid eye level in clear packaging and is labeled (I use expo markers on my Rubbermaid containers), and I have a “Snack box” in the pantry that is available 24/7 for hungry faces. It’s got individually portioned shelf-stable snacks and meal components. And on days when I am too tired/rushed to cook we have “Meal of snacks” where I serve a variety of snacks on old-school sectioned cafeteria trays- fruits, veggies, crackers, cheese, cookies, and a drink (juice or iced tea is a hit).

We have a list of snacks on the fridge so the kids know what there is to snack on. It is a visual list (I drew it), and when we are out of specific items, I cover the picture with a piece of posit note.

Calendars– in the kitchen, and one in each bedroom. I update them weekly, plus the grownups use the calendars on their phones and we have a shared family calendar. Kids get reminders each day in the morning and afternoon of any appointments or events that will take place during the day. The visual and auditory reminders really help cement the appointment in their mind.

Visual reminders– next to the front door at eye level there is a sign that reminds us we need: cellphone, wallet, keys, and garage door opener. It’s laminated.

Visual schedule– this is mainly for the kids. I drew up a daily schedule using words and pictures. I wrote a post about it here.

Lists– Everyone has a “Care tasks” list each week that includes appts, returning borrowed items, and tasks to do throughout the week. You can read about my weekly Care Tasks here. 

Larger font digital clock with day of the week, date, and what part of the day (morning, afternoon, evening, night). The kids can read a clock, but it can take time to engage their brains and count by 5’s, but the “old people clock” as it was marketed on Amazon helps them instantly and helps a lot with the “is it time for xxxxx yet?!?!”

Using your phone to stay on top of details- I saw this on Facebook in a group and I’ve started doing this. If you have an iPhone, there is a notes section in each contact. I’ve seen them used to keep track of favorite fast food at various restaurants, favorite foods/drinks, clothing sizes and brands, favorite colors, birthdays, and anniversaries. It’s such a game changer.

The fidget/stim box– we have a plastic box full of fidget/stim toys for everyone to grab when they need to focus. And everyone has some in their room too. This includes headphones to cut down on loud sounds (I buy the landscapers kind from harbor freight). We have 3 pairs in the house and two pairs in the car. For those not familiar- fidget toys can help calm the body so the mind can focus.

Some favorites include pop-its, hand strengthening eggs, fidget cubes, fidget spinners, stretchy tubes, pop tubes, and stress balls (the kind with Orbeez are super satisfying). Amazon sells really great fidget toys mutli-packs.

Medication Boxes- We refill our medication boxes each week (both AM and PM).  The three of us take our meds together each morning at breakfast time. Our medication boxes live on the kitchen counter, along with our pill minders: Jon Cena and Skeletor.

Stuff has a place– The kid’s shoes and backpacks are always by the door during the school year, ready to be cleaned out and refilled each night. My car keys and purse live in the same spot, the pool key has a special spot. The extra toilet paper and paper towels are always in the same spot (under the front bathroom sink). These are just a few examples of the ways that we remind ourselves and create routines. Creating routines can give us a sense of normalcy and be calming.

The Family Binder– One last thing that doesn’t directly “help” the kids but helps the family, especially in times of emergency is the family binder. I’ve had one since 2010 in various incarnations. I have a really old post about it here.  It’s basically my brain in paper form. It’s got all of our important papers, insurance info, important phone numbers, policy numbers, warranty information, receipts for expensive/valuable stuff, copies of most recent IEPS, copies of diagnosis paperwork, lists of everyone’s meds, doctors info, etc. Think of it as all the info you’d need if you lost power for an extended period, your house burned down, or there was a tornado.

There are a lot of other things that we do in our home to help the kids- keep them safe, regulated, and happy. The stuff listed above is just a small sample. Everyone’s home runs differently. And this was and continues to be a lot of work. The examples above are continually changing, and evolving in our home, and are a combination of 11+ years of hard work, learning, and failing. Some of this stuff I did to try and get organized in my late 20s, even before I was married and had kids.

 

 

Parents: Give Yourself A Break

DSC06725.JPGA friend posted this article from Motherly this morning about how self-care isn’t enough and parents (especially moms) are burnt out.

I can completely understand. As the mom of a kid with ASD and ADHD, and well as a neurotypical firecracker of a 4-year-old, I feel like I am always going going going. And really, I feel like it’s not enough.

This summer I’ve said NO a lot. No to racing off to an activity each morning, no to lunches out, no to 5 playdates a week, the craft dates, all-day zoo adventures, and sojourns to the beach. Oh, and this would have been just 1 week of summer activities in the past. Imagine that for 8 weeks. Are you tired now?

This is something I want everyone who reads this to take the heart: NO IS A COMPLETE SENTENCE. 

Plus, I still need to do household chores, cook, laundry and make sure the big kid gets to therapy twice a week, I need to exercise at least 4 times a week.

In saying no to all of these activities, the kids are able to relax, which means they are in a better mood, which mommy is in a better mood. We are still doing stuff, but it’s more things that the kids can do at home or in a small group of friends.  We’ve been swimming at our community pool each day in the late afternoon, playing at the local park. We’re going to the YMCA a few times a week in the afternoon so the kids can play while I exercise. Stuff that is low stress.

Why is parenting harder? Why are we burned out? This article gives us some ideas. The increase in activities for kids (If you want to go to an Ivy League school Little Timmy, you need to start your extra-curricular activities at birth!), social media expectations (It’s like Keeping up with the Joneses on crack), the constant barrage of information and data being thrown at us (pics of our kids, nanny/daycare cams being sent to us, text messages, chat apps, always being connected to people and media). It’s overwhelming. It’s tiring. Being expected to be Instagram-ready or Insta -Perfect is frustrating and exhausting.

For special needs parents, it’s harder because, for the most part, our kids aren’t  “like everyone else”, so frequently we are ostracized from activities. It’s the truth, and it sucks. and it hurts. To shield my kids from this hurt and keep myself sane, we’ve stepped back from activities this summer.

I’m not going to give you a list of self-care activities that will help you de-stress. You already know what works for you, your family, your budget.  This is what I do.

What I want you to know, moms and dads that read this post:

You are not alone. There are other parents and caregivers out there that are feeling the same way you do. You don’t have to keep up with everything you see online. You are doing the best you can for your family. YOU ARE ENOUGH!

I found this shirt on Amazon and I had to share it. 

Just be… YOU!

d5b635c2a38c538b18cddbbf797e93c0.jpgThere is a lot of talk lately in the media about being your “Authentic Self”. And while some of you might think that is new fangled hippie nonsense talk, in truth, it’s all about being you. Being who you REALLY are.

For so long as a kid and teen, we are taught to fit in, or be ostracized and teased (oh hi there, that was me), and at some point in our lives, we realize that fitting in SUCKS. Doing what you want, finding a group of people who think like you, are interested in what you like- That’s a true way to find happiness.

In that vein, I was recently approached to get my hair done by Mai at  Plaza Hair Salon. I’m a pretty hardcore frugal DIY’er and that goes for beauty as well. But the chance to get my hair done by someone else, and try something that was beyond my skill level was so tempting.

For YEARS (more like decades), I’ve had shoulder length red hair in one shade or another. Which I like, but deep down, I’ve wanted to have purple hair. I had purple hair in high school for about eight weeks, until the choir director flipped his lid (whatever- The school colors were purple and yellow- I was just showing my school spirit), and then I stripped it and dyed it red again.  Sadly, few photos of my purple hair exist. I was very camera shy in High School. Ya know, since I wasn’t a “cool kid”. I was a goth choir dork.

I figure I’m at a point in my life, where if I want purple hair, I’m going to do it, dammit.  I don’t have a “real job” (aka an office or 9-5 job), and if purple hair is who I feel I am, then let’s do it.

Mai at Plaza Hair Salon selected three sweet colors- a dark purple (to cover my natural hair color aka my grey roots), a vibrant purple, and magenta. She and her awesome assistant started their magic, and about 5 hours later… I was done! If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen some of my photos during the process.

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The before- sitting pensively thinking Deep Thoughts.

If you’ve never had your hair colored brightly before, it’s a process. Thankfully, I had fortified myself with caffeine, and I brought my phone charger with me! The time passes quickly too.

Screen Shot 2018-09-15 at 2.37.43 PM.pngAny dye is stripped from your hair (that takes about an hour), then your hair is washed and dyed. After the red hair color was stripped from my hair, I looked a little Like Jem. My hair was shades of light yellow and pink.

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Unflattering Selfies FTW!

After my hair was dried, Mai and her assistant set to making me my Authentic and purple self. They applied the purple and magenta dyes and I chilled while the dye processed.  After it was rinsed out and my hair was washed and conditioned, Mai and her assistant blow dried and styled my hair. I have never been happier with my hair.

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So soft, so purple-y!
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Holy Crap- It’s amazing!

Now that it’s a color I’ve wanted for so long, I find myself doing all kinds of fun stuff with it. Like this, and this.

Taking care of purple hair isn’t much different than taking care of any other color treated hair. I wash my hair only 3 times a week- Really, you don’t need to wash your hair much more than that. I use a sulfate free shampoo for chemically treated hair, and a moisturizing mask 2 times a week to keep my hair soft and tangle free.  I also use this Pureology spray as a de-tangler/leave in conditioner daily. I’ve got really fine hair that tangles really easily.

I get a lot of compliments on my hair, mostly from older women who tell me that they wish they had the guts to do it. I’ve been telling everyone who says that to me that it’s never too late to give yourself crazy hair, even if it’s clip in highlights like these (I also have some too. We usually use them for halloween). Kids love my hair too. I had a gaggle of third graders at my sons school tell me I looked like Twilight Sparkle from My Little Pony!

I do plan on keeping up with the maintenance on the color. It’s permanent dye and the vibrancy hasn’t faded too much. I may not be purple haired for as long as I was a red head…But then again, you never know!

Whether you decide to color your hair, get a tattoo, buy a new outfit that isn’t what you usually wear (I’m totally buying this dress next week), it’s ok to do what makes you happy, and what makes you feel like your authentic/real self.  Life is what you make of it, there is no sense in spending it unhappy.

I received a free hair color/cut in exchange for this review, but all opinions and ideas expressed are my own. There may be some affiliate links sprinkled in the post- if you click on them and purchase items, I may receive a commission. You can learn more from our Disclosure page here.