Thursday 19 September 2019

Helping my autistic kids to become organised

Anthony struggles to remember, imagine of him beside a statue of an elephant in a garden

My kids struggle with organisation.  It's a challenge for many kids and can especially difficult for those like our son, Anthony, with autism and ADHD or other special educational needs.  Whilst it's easy to get into the routine of doing everything for them, helping them build independence is equally important.

Anthony isn't going to become organised over night. It's not just a maturity thing, but a way that his brain operates.  Identifying what he needs and finding it all so it's ready for when he needs it, is no small task. But there are things that can make this easier for all kids.

Helping them identify what they need

For years we have been doing everything for Anthony. Anything he needs for school has been communicated directly between the teacher and us as his parents.  Sometimes this has been via a home-school book but often it's just been a few seconds at the end of school.  Reminders of gym kit, homework, school trips were given to us as there was no guarantee that Anthony would remember to tell us or even know what to do about them.

However, he has recently transitioned well to secondary school, and with that has come going to school via local SEN transport.  We've used this opportunity to give him some responsibility for what he needs for school.  Does he have tasks that happen on certain days of the week that needs to prepare for eg. does he have PE every Tuesday or cooking on a Friday?  A simple day chart or calendar can help him with this.  We can be there to remind him but also give him the opportunity to do it by himself.

TomTags can be a great way for some kids, especially visual learners to think about what they need and organise their school bags.  The 'I can do it – pack my bag for school' pack could be ideal for some although we've not needed this kind of thing yet.

A child opening the door of an armoire

Helping them locate what they need

Anthony finds looking for things really difficult.  Like many people with Autism and ADHD, Anthony easily forgets something as soon as it's done.  This means he'll forget where he has put something instantly.  He will also struggle to then look for something in a room full of other things.

Anthony has very little hope of finding a 'lost' remote control in a cluttered lounge for example.  It's as if he sees so many things he can't 'see' the remote. We've helped him with this skills by getting him to search 'sections' of the lounge at a time.  So look at each cushion on the sofa and see if the remote is there.  Then look at the table, then the mantel and so on.  But it's easiest if the remote if put back where it goes. In fact we bought a remote control holder to help this happen.

We can do the same things with Anthony's room and belongings so that he can find what he needs.  Having everything out so he can see it doesn't really work for him.  There's too many things to look at, put simply, it's too visually stimulating and he can't focus on anything.  Having his belongings  away in drawers or boxes helps.

Earlier this year we got a kids Armoire from Aspace. An Armoire is a freestanding wooden wardrobe that often includes internal shelves and drawers along the bottom.  Ours looks a bit like a short wardrobe on top of a set of six drawers. This gives our kids the ability to itemise all their clothes in one place.  Each drawer has an allocated item of clothing, eg socks, t-shirts etc and school uniform and hanging items go in the hanging space.  We also use the Marie Kondo method for storing clothes as it makes it easy to see and take items out without making a mess.

As the Armoires are made to order and hand painted, they can be painted in any colour you want.  This means they can match existing furniture and you can choose a colour that's good for your kids.  Grey's and browns work well for our David for example, as we think it makes falling asleep easier in a neutral coloured room. This kind of furniture makes it easy for Anthony to find what clothes he needs easily without having to search for it.

Other items can be stored away in boxes.  We have storage bins and cubes. Fabric storage cubes are great because when they are not in use they can be collapsed.  We have ours in wooden cubed shelves to they are easy to look into and put away.  Some kids may benefit from having their drawers and boxes labelled but we find this just adds to the visual mess for ours.  

So far these idea have helped Anthony be a little more independent.  We will just have to see how he gets on and what else me might have to do to support him as the year goes on.

We were supplied some of the items above at a discount for purpose of potential review and are happy to independently include them in this editorial.


  1. These are some great ideas for all children, but great to hear that they help Anthony particularly well. #KCACOLS

  2. I love the suggestion to look for lost items by breaking rooms into sections. I might try that with my son who can't seem to 'see' the thing he's looking for when it's sitting in plain sight! x #KCACOLS

  3. Although my kids arent autistic they still lack organisational skills and are very messy (like their mum!!) so these would be great for them! #KCACOLS

  4. I love these ideas and I need to start doing more of this as at the moment I still do far to much for my eldest and we really do need to work on idependance. Thanks for the tips #KCACOLS

  5. These are great ideas, thank you. I think I need to look into the Marie Kondo way of storing clothes in particular, as our boy is now becoming a little more independant when it comes to getting dressed. So it might be helpful for him, to be able to find what he needs more easily xx #SpectrumSunday


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