I’ve been a bit quiet this week, on the blog and in my writing. I managed to submit a handful of manuscripts to two competitions early last week and so have been feeling less pressure on that front and have been slowly chipping away at a couple of picture book manuscripts.
However, it’s a universal truth that as one part of your life calms down, another goes haywire. It’s been quite tense in our house over the past few weeks as Mr Six seems to have hit a developmental growth period which somewhat resembles teenage-hood. I won’t go into details, but let’s just say it hasn’t been pretty and has probably disturbed the neighbours on more than one occasion.
As is my style, I go into analysis mode and try to figure out a) the cause and b) the treatment. I came to realise that Mister Six needed further support with his routines and his daily life to calm his sensory system while he goes through this developmental growth stage. You see, Mister Six has Sensory Processing Disorder, which means that life is often just a little too loud, a little too busy and a little too intense. I do what I can to minimise all of this, within reason, but I realised that I needed to tweak a few things at home to further support him and help him succeed.
As it happens, I already had this book (The Sensory Child Gets Organised by Carolyn Dalgliesh) but hadn’t read all of it and it has been a really blessing. Whether your child has sensory issues or not, it has some amazing tips to make family life smoother, especially if you have more than one child (and as it happens, four-year-olds are no walk in the park either).
So over the past few days I’ve been reorganising areas of the house, visiting IKEA and printing out schedules.
One of the changes I made was to clear out some space in the boys’ shared bedroom and then reorganised some of the storage space so that they now each have their own shelf, their own basket, and their own drawer to store their little treasures, their favourite books and toys, etc. They really liked this idea and I’m kicking myself I didn’t do it earlier. They’ve been enjoying rediscovering treasures that had been lost in a toy box and they’ve been great about putting things away.
The second change was to put up a cork board with the week’s routine (including dinner plans and weekend plans), the weekly timetable for school and an after-school routine. This helps give our plans clarity and provides a sense of routine and comfort. Including the weekend plans was important because I realised that sometimes I’m the only one who knows what’s coming up and might tell my husband but not the kids, or vice versa, and so sometimes it’s a surprise to the kids if we are going out. Changes in plan aren’t tolerated well by most sensory kids, especially if that plan is to stay home and “do nothing”.
Next, I reorganised the art/craft area so that the most frequently used jars of pens, pencils and crayons are now in an Ikea RÅSKOG trolley next to their drawing table. I threw away lots of unused and finished colouring and exercise books and moved their science books to this area from their bedroom.
Another Ikea score was this huge container for their Lego. Lego organisation has been a bugbear for ages. Sorting by colour or size doesn’t work as it never stays sorted so we’ve kept it all in a Brikbag. But this hasn’t worked well (for me) either because the boys just sweep it off the bag while searching for pieces and it ends up spread all over the room and pieces get lost. When it came time to clean up, they would run for the hills. This container keeps it all a bit more contained.
My final job this morning was to reorganise a little bookcase to use as a sensory-calming corner. This bookcase already contained Mr Four’s collection of gems and rocks and some games, which I have moved, so I’ve kept the gems and rocks and added a few fidget toys, some bean bags, and a search and find bag. I plan to put a poster on the wall with suggestions for calming down, which they can read at their leisure.
Apart from these changes, I’ve made it easier for them to put their bags away after school and I’ve been more clear about the morning routine and trying to prepare more the night before so that our mornings run more smoothly. Also, I have been more strict about limiting their screen time. I have always limited it as I see that it has a huge effect on Mr Six (less so on Mr Four) but it was starting to creep in more and more.
I must say, so far the last few days have been much smoother and calmer. The boys have welcomed the changes and the mornings have been really easy. Funnily enough, it’s also given me a heightened sense of calm and structure, which is definitely most welcome! I just hope it continues…
Do you have a child with sensory issues? What strategies work for you? Let me know if any of these ideas work for you!