Spontaneity really is overrated

Way back in my twenties I took a creativity course wherewe ‘practiced’ being spontaneous. And man, did I need practice. I’ve always loved having a plan and a recent conference helped me realize how much Ryan needs one too – and not just at school.

I’ve always known how helpful checklists and plans are for kids on the spectrum, and we often use them to plan unstructured time and to prepare for new events or happenings. But I’ve been reluctant to be too rigorous about everyday use at home – feeling it would be too restrictive and controlling of Ryan’s time and choices.

Then I attended the Autism Awareness Centre’s annual Halifax gathering in April and heard what education expert Catherine Faherty had to say on the subject. Faherty shared an amazing letter she received from one of her adult clients about how his daily checklists are lifesavers for him: how they help him use his time effectively, reduce his anxiety, and support him taking better care of himself.

Well, two days later I was in Staples picking up clipboards and laminate and working on checklists with both of my boys. And guess what? They LOVE them (especially my neurotypical son!). We have morning routine and a bedtime routine complete with boxes to check off when an activity is completed and they both include lots of choice time. We named the lists after their favourite Wii game (The Kirby Morning Routine and the Waddle Dee Bedtime Routine) and they each got to pick their favourite picture off the web to decorate their lists. (That’s what took the most time!)

The lists are helping them track their time better, rather than me nagging them all the time. And they are helping Ryan integrate some important activities into his daily routine without being constantly reminded . Mike went to the conference on the second day and the key message he brought home was about mastering skills – where an activity or behaviour becomes so engrained and known that reminders or prompts are no longer needed.

Ryan made his bed without being asked several times this week and automatically took his dishes to the counter – small, practical achievements that I couldn’t help but see having implications for organizing his time in high school and later on in his life.

The boys even realized that getting dressed before coming downstairs for breakfast means more choice time and less time spent going back upstairs to get dressed later, so we changed our checklists. The boys played for 30 minutes before school and were thrilled, and for the first time in years I got through an entire newspaper – my very own choice time. Like I said, spontaneity is overrrated: Long live the list!




Filed under ASD events, Family, Planning for the future, Social stories

5 responses to “Spontaneity really is overrated

  1. Karla

    tI hink I need to see your creation. I could use one, and then quite possibly my daughter? thanks

  2. Sonia

    I am sooo glad you found the time to make those schedules…funny how we have this misconception that their lives (and ours) will be regimeted by a list of things to do! And like your saying, the only thing it does is help everybody with time management.

    My kids actualy like it when I grab my post-it pad and just right down a list for each of them before we leave for an evening, or on the days when we have a lot of things to do; I just right down an approximate time frame for each activity. It really helps Maryse, because that way she sees her day going by. They (and us) get so caught up in playing and stuck in what they’re doing that quite often, with Maryse, she cries because she says she didn’t do the things she wanted to do! With the list, she can put what she wants in it, and she does not get stressed with time passing by.

    With the post-it lists, we also find it “easier” (don’t get me wrong…there is still a lot of deals being made!!) to make some changes in the list. The outbursts or the conflicts don’t escalade as much.

    And for us ultimately, it took away a lot of stress on our shoulders as parents. Now we just say: “What’s next on your list?”, “Did you follow your list?”, “Are you done with your list?”. It takes the parenting part of the “getting things done” out of the picture!

    But I have to admit that this attitude for those little lists came from Maryse’s doctor at the IWK Autism Team, Dr Shea, who really helped us understand how important that little list was going to help Maryse. And they really do!

    Thanks for sharing!
    Sonia xoxo

    • Thanks Sonia! Your support really helped get me going. Tonight we were late with bedtime and all I said was: Look at your list, you can see how late it is. And that was that! They weren’t happy, but they couldn’t argue, since we came up with the list together. xoam

  3. I loved this idea. It makes me want to try it with Ben and Kenold. Any chance we could see one of your homemade charts? xo

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