Create a game plan – keeping a tidy home with a special needs child

I was reading through some of the struggles mums in our community are having with thriving at home with young kids.  Quite a few have children with special needs and struggling with the endless cleaning, tidying and battling to get the basics done.  

I can only imagine what you are going through, but I really want to help with finding advise and tips that will help you keep a tidy home with a special needs child.  I’d like to introduce you to my friend Cass who understands the extra effort involved with having a child with special needs.  I’m thrilled to have Cass on board to regularly write some posts sharing some of her tips through the ‘Helping mums thrive at home‘ series.  change game plan tidy home special needs child

Hi, I am Cass, I am mum to three beautiful children, two of them have been diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder. I was thrilled when Kat asked me to write for her, to answer questions from special needs mums. I really started to think about it and I had this moment of clarity. When you get a diagnosis for your child, the whole game changes. Your life changes. Therapists, Special Ed departments, support devices, expenses. We make many changes and adjustments for our child to accommodate their needs. Ask yourself this question. Are you still playing the housework game the same as everyone else? I was. I was playing a totally different game, but still using the rules I had before!  Lets assess how some of our housework has changed since diagnosis.  

  • you have less time – due to constant therapy appointments and at home therapies
  • you have less time – due to upsets, sensory reactions (vacuum cleaner noise) and safety issues (wet floor – communication issues) 
  • you have a child that tips every toy out of every container every day
  • you have more housework to do because of mischief – (really big mischief)

Now if this was our children, we would not expect them to have the same rules as those who don’t have these issues right? So, let’s be kind to ourselves. I am not saying to live in squalor at all.  I am saying be ok with some mess sometimes. Bring in some supports (help, good appliances, routines & systems). Use housework as therapy, find a lesson in it and increase participation, don’t let it be about doing it quickly to keep up with the rules of someone else’s game. We are not playing that one anymore. 

My house is often messy. But if you take note when you come, it is a different mess each time. 

This is my son below, he emptied the beans from the bean bag.  He had a blast playing with them, kept him occupied for hours.  I used the blower vac on reverse to suck them all up.



Through the new series ‘Helping mums thrive at home‘ I will be sharing my stories and tips, but I would love to read and share yours as well, just like Cass’s. I am positive those who are feeling out of control at the moment will find some comfort and help reading how other mums have managed to get through these times, be it that you struggled too or you found one simple tip made a difference or you found a way to manage from the beginning. Your story and tips can make a big difference to another mum. Please email me your story or tips.

helping mums thrive at home

This post is a part of The Organised Housewife’s guide to help mums thrive at homeseries.  You can view all other posts in the series here.

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Jean July 9, 2015 - 9:05 AM

Thank you Kat for your consideration on this area, this is a brilliant series idea adding in the element that families with special needs children are different. I just want to say I love your blog it has helped me so much. My son has just been diagnosed and I have been concerned about him socially, what he is eating and yes I want a perfectly tidy home but can never achieve it, it’s a hopeless case. I never stop to consider that I need to lower my expectations, I thought if I found the time somewhere in our chaotic life I will get to tidying it, but I can never find that time.

Smaggle July 9, 2015 - 12:45 PM

Great idea! I found charts worked well when I worked with special ed kids. Finished boxes are great too. When they’re finished with an item, it goes in the finished box.

Emma (try these 101 kids lunchbox ideas) July 9, 2015 - 4:08 PM

Great tips and ideas and for bringing this topic out in the open. And I love the bean bag idea – really clever.

Gillian McCready July 9, 2015 - 8:52 PM

I have a daughter with special needs who is now 18. It was incredibly difficult when she was young, however she has achieved some remarkable things and gives us so many reasons to be proud of her. I came across this piece of writing many years ago. It gave me hope, and at last felt that someone understood. It still makes me cry every time I read it!

Welcome to Holland
by Emily Perl Kingsley

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability — to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this…

When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip to Italy. You buy a bunch of guidebooks and make your wonderful vacation plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very, very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The flight attendant comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”

“Holland?!?”, you say.” What do you mean, Holland? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy. ”

“But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They landed in Holland and there you must stay.”
The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine, and disease. It’s just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guidebooks. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for awhile and you catch your breath, you look around, and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills. Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy, and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say, ‘Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.’

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever go away, because the loss of that dream is a very significant loss.

But if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things about Holland.

Maddy July 9, 2015 - 9:01 PM

Oh wow I have tears. My eldest has ASD and we have just had a really tough day.

Debbie July 9, 2015 - 10:42 PM

Wow! that really rings true. I’m currently faced with a new and unexpected journey with my 2 year old. With two previous children happy and healthy, my third decided that our lives weren’t busy enough so decided to throw us a curve ball and see our lives totally turned upside down. What worked with the eldest two has no meaning in her life. So we are back on a learning curve and adapting our lives around doing things differently, and I’m trying desperately to convince family and friends that my trashed house is the way it’s meant to be at this point in our lives. I love the writing piece and will remember it when things don’t go according to plan 🙂

Ana July 14, 2015 - 10:40 PM

My son was born at 23 weeks gestation , he has cerebral polsey , severe language disorder. He is almost 10 years old now and through the years we had lots of challenges lots of ups and lots of downs the downs makes us apreciate all he has achived and always hopeful of what is to came. I mast say there been times when I haven’t seen the light at the end of the tunel and I despair and would of love to go to Italy not holland but then I see that holland has a lot to offer and that I will fight for the right to get the best from holland. Gillian thank you for this entry regards ana

Lisa July 9, 2015 - 10:17 PM

My son is now turning 21 he borderline aspergers,ADHA,server anxiety,mild depression,short term memory problems and when he was younger sleep problems and hearing and speech problems but those improved with age. My daughter is turning 15 she is also borderline aspergers,ADD,server anxiety,mild depression,short term memory problems,auditory processing disorder and bowel and bladder problems as well as polycystic ovaries. I must say having kids with multiple problems is very challenging but it certainly not dull, they can make you look at problems from a whole new perspective which can good. There is no hand book that will ever prepare you for this and you will find yourself in a library reading medical journals just to try and make your child’s life a little easier for them and to help them understand why they are more special than other kids and why their talents are different to others. I found what worked for my son did not always work for my daughter as she is on a different level than my son. When he was younger I use to use a photo board to show him what he had to do in the mornings to get ready for school and as he got older charts and behaviour chart worked well, it was also good for me so I could see a pattern in his behaviour and work out when it was going to be a bad or a reasonable week. Well with my daughter charts did nothing, she never had a special toy or activity that would last more than a couple of weeks, so it was a bit more challenging, you had to change the reward or the toy every week just about to get her to stay on track.My son is managing his life pretty well with mum checking up on every couple of weeks he knows his limits and when he needs some help and my daughter is still a work in progress but were getting there with a little help. They just need a little more love and a lot more patience and understanding.

Gayle Ashdowne July 9, 2015 - 11:56 PM

Hi Kat, I have enjoyed following your blog and Facebook page for sometime now. Love that you are introducing new ideas and how you have guest bloggers. I am a mother of a child with special needs and enjoyed reading Cass’ article. Did you know that when referring to a person with a special need that you should always use people first language? So may I request/suggest that you change your heading to reflect this eg. Game plan – Keeping a tidy home with a child with special needs? Thank you.
Kind regards,
Gayle mum of Sophie, my child with special needs

Karen R. July 10, 2015 - 2:16 PM

I have and autistic daughter who is eight. She is medically complex beyond that. I follow several autistic adults

Karen R. July 10, 2015 - 2:23 PM

Oops! I follow several adult bloggers who prefer to refer to themselves as autistic. I think that I will let my daughter choose her wording herself.

Gillian McCready July 10, 2015 - 7:20 PM

A further thought… It jarred slightly when I saw the photo of a “typical” child playing independently, rather than one of a child with special needs, under the heading for the article. I think that it is brilliant that you are doing this series and offering advice and support to Mums of children with special needs as we are an often ignored/isolated group. However, one of the other challenges is that in many cases, our children look different as well as behave differently, and the more we can see images of those children and adults in the media, the better. Hopefully, people will become more familiar and comfortable with difference as a result.

Melissa July 13, 2015 - 3:12 PM

Thanks Kat and Cass!! That is so nice. I have just spent the whole day planning to get on top of my household chores, budget etc… whilst managing my ASD daughters spills, squeals and adventures (and Dr’s referrals, and a meltdown) whilst at home today. Coming across this article was perfect timing for me, I’d love some help with my game plan. Melissa

Katrina - The Organised Housewife July 13, 2015 - 3:38 PM

Cass will be sharing some great tips in the coming weeks 🙂


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