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.
Recently, I posted our daily schedule for school days on Instagram.
Because the littler kiddo is still learning to read, I do a combination of words and pictures. I find that it also helps as sometimes when kids become disregulated, reading can be a little too much for our brains.
The Afternoon/Night section doesn’t have times because while bedtime is at a fixed time, it is important to grant the kids some freedom in the afternoons to relax and decompress from school. After being “on” all day at school, I like to give them 30 minutes to an hour after school to have a snack and relax without any kind of demands put on them.
There are of course times when that is not possible, for example when we have appointments immediately after school. Having a schedule for them to see really helps them organize and be aware.
Having two neurodivergent kiddos, it’s important to have visual reminders of schedules, family rules, appointments, etc. around the house. Each kid has a calender in room that is updated monthly with upcoming appointments, days off school and holidays. Updating those each month is something I do the first day of each month. I use stickers in addition to writing to help remind the kids of upcoming events on the calenders.
With Neurodivergency sometimes comes what we call “losing time”. The concept of time can be hard for kids to grasp, regardless of their neurodivergency. Another way that we help keep the kids on schedule is to use the old theater trick where we give them a one hour “call”, a 30 minute call, a five minute call, and then a time to go call. Grown ups call out, “One hour until X”, and the kids answer back, “Thank you one hour!” Making them repeat the amount of time they have left until we leave or transition activities puts it in their mind that whatever they are doing/playing/watching will come to an end.
Talk Back: I’d love to hear about the tips and tricks you use to keep your family on schedule!
I’m in a few Facebook groups for parents of children that are on the Autism spectrum or are otherwise neurodivergent.
One of the things about being a parent of a neurodivergent child is that after you are informed of your kids’ diagnosis is there is nothing. It’s like, “Here is the diagnosis. Thanks for your co-pay… NEXT!!”
Typically, doctors and other clinicians don’t offer you resources, support, or give you any information. Sometimes you have to fight to get a copy of the diagnostic report.
In my Facebook groups, parents of newly diagnosed children come and ask, “What now?” or “How do I get my kid help and services?” After typing the same response literally hundreds of times in the past 5 years trying to help parents and guardians (because I had no help and had to google and claw and find help for my child and family), here are a few resources that have helped my family:
If you suspect your child may be neurodivergent, contact their pediatrician. Ask for an assessment. You may receive a referral to a psychologist. The intake process is lengthy. There are typically 2-3 appointments, plus lots of paperwork to complete. If you receive any pushback, keep pressing forward. If your doctor says no, call your insurance provider directly and ask for help. If you live in San Diego County, you can also contact the San Diego Regional Center directly for help getting an assessment.
Once you receive a diagnosis, request a copy of the paperwork for your files. You will need a copy of the diagnosis paperwork to access services.
Important side notes: Start a file/binder (I use this one) for all of your paperwork. There will be a lot of it. I also have heavy-duty page protectors and folders in the three-ring binder. I keep his IEP (Individual Education Plan), IHSS paperwork, Regional Center paperwork, a list of his doctors (including their phone numbers and addresses), and copies of the medication inserts/directions that come with the prescriptions.
If you are in San Diego County, contact the San Diego Regional Center. Any resident of San Diego or Imperial County believed to have a developmental disability may receive intake services through the San Diego Regional Center. The Regional Center can help you access services such as respite care, Medi-cal Waiver, and access to community services. For most families, Regional Center services are free or very inexpensive. The intake paperwork will go over income requirements for payment for being a Regional Center Client. Our kiddo has been a Regional Center client for 5 years, and they have been a great resource.
Once you get in touch with the Regional Center and your child becomes a client, you want to get your child on Medi-cal. This will allow them to receive the most services and can help your family access IHSS (In Home Support Services- Someone to help provide care for your child, as their special needs may mean that they require extra care or support above and beyond what a neurotypical child their age may require).
If your family makes too much money annually to qualify your child through Medi-Cal, ask for a Medi-cal Development Disability Waiver. Having this waiver for your child is really important, as it will open up so many services and programs.
Some neurodivergent children require services to help better their quality of life. Some of these services include:
- OT (Occupational Therapy)
- Speech Therapy
- Behavioral or Mental Health Therapy
- Feeding Therapies
The Regional Center Case Worker assigned to your child can help you navigate what services they can help with, and provide resources.
Note about Medi-cal: Just because your kid has it, doesn’t mean that you have to use it as their primary health insurance. For our family, we use Medi-cal to cover the gaps that we’ve found in our primary insurance. Covering co-pays for medication that relates to his diagnosis, and in the past, a few other therapies that we no longer utilize.
There are a lot of support groups online to help parents navigate life with Neurodivergent kiddos. It’s worth a Facebook or Reddit search, using your city, state, or geographic area.
There are also a lot of non-profits that are all about helping Neurodivergent people. I love NFAR (the National Federation for Autism Research), they are local to San Diego, and they have programs for parents, kids, and teens, and adults.
The Autism Tree Project Foundation is another NPO I love. They have all sorts of great playgroups, events, and resources for families of Neurodivergent people.
MOST IMPORTANT: Regardless of your child’s diagnosis, they are still your kid. Nothing changes your love for them and their love for you. If you are uncomfortable or if your child is uncomfortable with any therapies that they take part in, listen to your gut, and listen to your kid. There are some therapies that are commonly accepted that older Autists (people on the autism spectrum) recount as having negative mental or physical impacts on them.
Please seek out support- There are a lot of people who have gone through what you are going through. Lots of parents, friends, allies who can share their resources, and offer you a shoulder to cry on when you are frustrated, and hugs when you need them. I count myself among those supporters. When you need help or support, don’t hesitate to email me or DM/PM me on any of my socials.
NFAR (The National Federation for Autism Research) is hosting a Zoom lunch and learn on April 2, 2021, which is World Autism Awareness and Acceptance Day.
If you have followed my blog for a while, you know that my oldest (now 10) was diagnosed with ASD at age 5. Learning more about how the mind of someone on the spectrum is a lifelong learning experience. I always look forward to events like this. It is interesting to learn the science and research behind ASD.
The speaker is the leading scientific researcher, Dr. Eric Courchesne.
Friday April 2nd 12:00 noon – 1:00 pm PST
TOPIC: The When, What, and How of ASD Development with Q&A
GUEST SPEAKER: Dr. Eric Courchesne, Professor of Neurosciences in the School of Medicine at the University of California San Diego and Co-Director of the UCSD Autism Center of Excellence.
Dr. Eric Courchesne introduced the new concept of ASD Living Biology, a new approach for discovering prenatal brain developmental origins and explanations of ASD in the individual child. His work shows ASD begins in the 1st and 2nd trimesters and his studies have identified genomic, molecular, cellular, and neural differences that lead to early language and social symptoms in autism and predict clinical outcome. His work is internationally recognized.
Dr. Courchesne’s studies integrate behavioral, brain imaging, developmental, cellular, genetic and genomic findings that lead to a better understanding of the prenatal origins of autism. His team has also identified early diagnostic and outcome biomarkers. From this work his team aims to identify treatments specific to biological subtypes. Dr. Courchesne has published over 200 articles in major journals such as JAMA, TINS, Neuron, Molecular Psychiatry, Nature Neuroscience, and the New England Journal of Medicine.
To sign up for this free online event, click here.
I am not affiliated with Dr. Courchesne or NFAR. I am simply sharing this information.
All-Inclusive Day of Play & Resource Fair!On Wednesday, August 7 from 10 am to 1 pm at the Miramar Hourglass Recreation Center, 10440 Black Mountain Road, SD, 92126, families from around the county are invited to celebrate the last days of summer and gather information from resource providers for families with all abilities. Your family is invited to this FREE summer event!
Activity Booths • Giveaways • Performances • Games • Family Resources • Networking & more!
Children of all abilities will enjoy activity stations including Woody’s Roundup Corral, Super Hero City, Wheelchair Awareness Course, Literacy Duck Pond, V.T. Raceway, Star Wars Space Station and more!
Plus, enjoy a variety of entertaining performances at the All Abilities Stage.
Over 40 resource services and providers for children of all abilities will conveniently be onsite to speak with parents and provide information.
All activities and resources are FREE and open to the public.
Sign up for your family’s FREE tickets on eventbrite now!
If you don’t have plans for Thursday, check out the fun at Legoland California!
Don’t miss Fireworks set to a patriotic musical tribute with great viewing in designated locations throughout the Park.
Event activities include:
- All-American family picnic games: water-balloon tosses, burlap sack races, Family Build Challenge and LEGO Hamburger relay
- Patriotic costume parade: come dressed in your favorite Red, White and Blue attire
- Character meet and greets
- Special giveaways
- Live performances and more!
The celebration lasts from 1:00pm to 9:00pm with fireworks at 8:30pm. All Red, White and BOOM! activities are included in the cost of admission to LEGOLAND California.
And if you are looking for a deal, Groupon has discount admissions here. Or if you stop by a San Diego County area McDonald’s location, you can pick up a coupon for a free child admission when you purchase an adult admission at full price.
On June 22 from 10am-1pm, the Special Needs Resource Foundation of San Diego and San Diego Family will be holding an All-Inclusive Read 3×3 Literacy Event: 3 Authors, 3 Hours, 3 Times the Fun at the San Diego Central Library.
San Diego Family Magazine is partnering with the San Diego Central Library @ Joan & Irwin Jacobs Common, Binford I CAN, Too! Center to promote literacy in kids from 0-10, put a free book in the hands of every child, teach empathy and compassion through stories and promote summer reading.
Every child that attends will receive a free book (while supplies last) donated by San Diego Family Magazine. We will have 3 authors (Salina Yoon, Sally J. Pla and Andrea Zimmerman) each read two of their books, followed by a craft for the kids.
The San Diego Central Library houses the Binford I CAN, Too! Center serving children with accessibility needs and their caregivers. The Binford I CAN, Too! Center offers access to technology, allowing patrons access to the following:
- ZoomText: computer screen magnifier
- JAWS: computer screen reader for the visually impaired, Read & Write Literacy: speech-to-text software, SARA Reader: converts text from printed to spoken
- Optelec ClearView: 22” magnifier, High-definition keyboards, Adjustable height tables and Assistive Mouse/Ball Tracking.
In addition to the technology and equipment, the Center also provides periodic programming for and about children with special needs. These programs provide children with the opportunities to socialize, learn and have fun. Additional resources include large print and braille books, Sensory Integration Kits for children on the autism spectrum, and parent resource materials.
I’m excited to take the kids to this event and check out the Binford I CAN, Too! Center this summer.
My Big Guy LOVES Pokémon. The cartoons, the card game, and when he found out there was going to be a live-action movie he begged me (and his dad) to take him. Thanks to my awesome PR friend Risa, we were able to check out a sneak preview on Monday.
So my review comes from the angle of a mom with an autistic kid who doesn’t do well with lots of fast movement, loud sounds (like explosions) in movies.
IT WAS PERFECT! Visually, the insertion of the Pokémon was seamless, it wasn’t ever too loud, too fast, and the special effects were just enough. Kiddo watched in fascination for the entire movie! The movie run time is 1 hour, 44 minutes. A great length for a kids movie (although it is rated PG- Pikachu says “hell” at one point).
For those not in the know… The story begins when ace detective Harry Goodman goes mysteriously missing, prompting his 21-year-old son Tim to find out what happened. Aiding in the investigation is Harry’s former Pokémon partner, Detective Pikachu: a hilariously wise-cracking, adorable super-sleuth who is a puzzlement even to himself. Finding that they are uniquely equipped to work together, as Tim is the only human who can talk with Detective Pikachu, they join forces on a thrilling adventure to unravel the tangled mystery. Chasing clues together through the neon-lit streets of Ryme City—a sprawling, modern metropolis where humans and Pokémon live side by side in a hyper-realistic live-action world—they encounter a diverse cast of Pokémon and uncover a shocking plot that could destroy this peaceful co-existence and threaten the whole Pokémon universe.
Oh, and Ryan Reynolds voices Pikachu. So there is that too. There is really something for everyone.
Did you know that the creator of Pokémon, Satoshi Taiji is autistic? It’s true! The Art of Autism has a really great article about him and Pokémon.
We didn’t take the Itty Bitty kiddo, but she’s not really into going to the movies (except for the snacks). If your littler kiddos like going to the movies, I’d recommend it for them too.
Detective Pikachu opens on Friday, May 10th.
Talk Back: Do your kids love Pokémon? Who is their favorite?
Mainly Mozart has a great trilogy of concerts this weekend at Bread and Salt in San Diego. The best part is that all three concerts are FREE. You need to register here for tickets.
Cello Meets Guitar
Friday, May 3 | Bread and Salt, Logan Heights | 7:00pm – Concert
Sunday, May 5 | Bread and Salt, Logan Heights | 2:00pm – Concert
Music, Inspiration, and Autism
Sunday, June 2 | Bread and Salt, Logan Heights |7:00pm – Concert
Mainly Mozart has a great series called Mozart & the Mind- and they are having an event on June 1st featuring Key Note Speaker- Temple Grandin. If you are a Regional Center Client, click here for information on how you can attend The June 1st or June 2nd Mozart & The Mind Symposium for free.