As a parent of special needs child, you have your hands full. As if regular parenting isn’t enough, there will be even more challenges that you have to face. Just as the term “special needs” implies, your child will have additional needs that neuro typical children won’t necessarily have.
All children need structure and routine, but children with special needs tend to have a greater need for this. As humans, we are built for routine. It gives us a sense of security and it helps build self-discipline. We fear what we don’t know and without a routine or a schedule, the day becomes full of unknowns. Children are not exempt from this. It creates anxiety for them when they don’t know what to expect from their day.
This can be even more true for children with special needs. If your child has autism, ADHD, OCD or other anxiety disorder, or related conditions, it can be very stressful for them not to know what is happening in their day.
This is why the schedule is important. Not only should you make one, but you should also print it or write it out and hang it in a visible location. You might create one schedule for your child that they can hang in their room, and one for yourself with your own responsibilities on it. You can hang meal charts in the kitchen, and chore charts up as well.
Your child will be able to look at these charts and know what to expect. They can see their responsibilities, as well as what activities may be coming up that day. It reduces stress in the household and helps things flow more smoothly. With Emma, I have learned the importance of prepping her ahead of time so she isn’t caught off guard with appointments or activities that may have to do. It makes a “world” of difference if she is prepped ahead of time.
Children handle change best if it is expected and comes as part of the regular family/household routine. The same can be said of children with special needs who are often more sensitive to change than other children. When you have a routine, and then need to introduce something new or different, you can work it into the family dynamic that you already have created, making it less stressful.
When you need to change or alter the family routine, you should give advance notice, whenever possible, and take the time to sit with your child and answer any questions he may have about these changes. Don’t rush it. Give them time to process everything to make sure they feel safe and secure, even with the changes happening!
Scheduling is also important for the parents themselves. You stay busy as a special needs parent and it can be difficult to keep up with everything. You’re running to appointments, and solving problems, now you have to figure out what to make for dinner, only to realize you’re missing an ingredient!
Scheduling your day, including meals and sleep times, will help reduce much of the chaos that comes from parenting a child with special needs. You will know what’s happening yourself, even if your day gets hectic. It will also make it easier for other family members or caregivers to step in to help you out if needed.