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How to Help Your Sensory Child Get Organized

Mighty Mommy welcomes Carolyn Dalgliesh, a professional organizer and author of The Sensory Child Gets Organized. Carolyn shares tips to modify your home environment to support sensory and disorganized kids. Learn how you can make your children's home and school life run more smoothly.

By
Cheryl Butler
7-minute read
Episode #313

We are very lucky to welcome a special guest to the Mighty Mommy podcast today. Carolyn Dalgliesh is a professional organizer and author of the bookThe Sensory Child Gets Organized

Carolyn is here to share wonderful tips for modifying your home environment to support your sensory or disorganized child. 

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Mighty Mommy: Carolyn, can you please give us a brief overview of how this book came to be?

Carolyn Dagliesh: I wrote The Sensory Child Gets Organized from my perspective as the parent of a sensory child and my experience as a professional organizer. Sensory kids are working hard navigating many overwhelming situations throughout their day and little things can become major stress points. My goal was to help fill the gap that I often saw between essential clinical support families were getting and practical in-home solutions.

Through my personal experience, I knew how hard it was for me to learn and understand my childʼs way of learning and experiencing the world. Through my organizing work with sensory families, I noticed that many parents, like me, did not intuitively know how to create structure at home for their rigid, anxious, or distracted kids.

I aim to show parents that the home environment can be modified to support disorganized kids and help life run more smoothly for the entire family.;

MM: The book is titled The Sensory Child Gets Organized. Can you define what is a "sensory child"?

CD: Sensory children are easily overwhelmed and/or distracted by high levels of stimulation, sudden changes, and the behavior (or the misreading of the behavior) of others. For many sensory kids, there can be a challenge in the way they process and understand language and non-verbal cues and this adds a layer of strain to the way they process information and communicate.

MM: Who else can benefit from this book?

CD: Though there are a number of profiles and diagnoses for a sensory child (Sensory Processing Disorders, ADHD, anxiety disorders, Autism Spectrum Disorders), often many core challenges are similar - specifically rigid (inflexible), anxious, and distracted behaviors. So almost any child who exhibits rigid, anxious, or distracted behaviors (even when they’re without a specific diagnosis) or a child who has challenges getting and staying organized would benefit from the strategies in my book.

The power of sensory organizing is that the same cores tools of structure, routines, and visual aids support all of these profiles and challenging behaviors.

MM: What are your top 5 tips for getting sensory kids organized for their school life?

Tip #1: Use a Drop Bin System

Get one big, open bin and put it where things get dropped. This would hold everything that needs to go to school at some point during the week: jackets, lunch boxes, backpacks, library books, papers etc.

As it gets remembered during the afternoon or evening, it gets thrown in the bin. At the end you the night, your child has one pack-up session organizing what he needs for school the next day.

Tip #2: Put a Book List Inside the Locker

If your child has a hard time remembering what books to bring home, put a simple, laminated book checklist in their locker, cubby, or in their backpack to scan as they pack their backpack.

Tip #3: Provide Visual Cues

Think about ways to provide a visual cue to spark remembering for your child.

For example, if they forget to turn in their homework once they get to school, give them a visual tangible. One visual cue is the colored rubber bracelets. Have your child pick out a color that they associate with homework. Each morning at breakfast, they put on the bracelet and say “Turn in homework.” When they get to school and touch, fiddle with, or see the bracelet during the day, they will hear “Turn in homework” in their mind. When they get home the bracelet comes off and is put on again the next morning.

Tip #4: Have a “Forgot My Homework” Plan

If you know that remembering things is hard for your child, expect that your child will forget their homework somewhat regularly. If that’s the case, come up with a written game plan of what you will do when your child forgets homework. Think about people you can call, online resources, a heads-up email to teachers, etc. Laminate the plan and put in their homework area.

Knowing what to do when homework is forgotten is as important a tool as learning how to remember homework.

Tip #5: Let Them See Time

As kids get older and planning time gets more complicated, working with a visual, tangible planning system just around academic life can be helpful. One great tool is the 3M Post-It Weekly Planner.

You can “see” time and move planning blocks (colored sticky notes) into different days/times as schedule changes. You can also plan backwards. For example, show the test date at the end of the week and work backwards to fill-in blocks of study times.

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About the Author

Cheryl Butler

Cheryl L. Butler is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. Call the Mighty Mommy listener line at 401-284-7575 to ask a parenting question. Your call could be featured on the show!