Optimizing Your Home Environment to Help Your Exceptional Needs Family Thrive

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Family’s of children with exceptional needs often spend a great deal of time looking for resources and providers outside the home, and understandably so. However, it is equally important to focus attention on what is happening inside the home as well. The following suggestions can help your exceptional needs family thrive while enjoying time together at home!

Declutter and Organize

For all family’s this is important, but for families of children with exceptional needs, this is even more important! Physical clutter can become mental clutter for both you and your child. Strewn toys and belongings can hinder children’s ability to play as well as be emotionally dysregulating. Keep like toys together in labeled bins organized neatly in a closet or on bookshelf. This helps teach organizational skills and helps children not lose toys and small items and quickly find what they are looking for. If it’s been a while since you’ve decluttered and organized; check out Allie Casazza’s Declutter Like a Mother for some great suggestions to start.

Make Sure Your Home is Safe

Parents of young children are usually thrilled when the cabinet latches, outlet covers, and baby gates are finally ready to come down. However, for families of children with exceptional needs, home safety remains a concern long after children have grown out of the toddler phase. Due to their impulsivity, a lack of danger awareness, and often fearless play habits, turning to a professional with expertise in home safety may be necessary. Bob Dane of Child Senior Safety offers free remote consultations to families to ensure their home is as safe as possible. He will create a customized plan for each family which may include bolting furniture to the wall, installing banister safety railings, alarms and additional locks on exterior doors, etc. There is nothing more important than keeping our loved ones safe!

Create Consistent Routines

Many children with exceptional needs have great success following their school day’s structure but struggle at home. Knowing what to expect helps in emotional regulation and meltdown reduction. To help children with exceptional needs at home, follow routines for mornings, evenings, mealtimes, baths, sleep, etc. Areas of your child’s day that occur daily should follow a similar and consistent routine, like at school, as much as possible. While it may be tempting to allow your child to stay up a little later on weekends, it may not be worth the fallout.

Learn What to Let Go

As much as parents may want the family to all sit together at dinner and share the same family meal, that may cause more frustration for your child and ultimately the entire family than what it’s worth. Children with exceptional needs, have just that exceptional needs. They NEED different things than their neurotypical siblings and peers. That may mean what they eat or where they eat is different than the rest of the family. They may not be able to follow the same rules as siblings and require a different parenting approach. Letting go of your expectations (for now) and meeting your exceptional needs child where they are will help your entire family thrive!

We shape our homes, then our homes shape us. – Winston Churchill

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Amy Nielsen

Amy Nielsen is a former children's librarian of nearly twenty years. She now spends most of her time obsessively pounding on a keyboard. She is the author of It Takes a Village: How to Build a Support System for Your Exceptional Needs Family, Goldilocks and the Three Bears: Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder. Her upcoming YA Worth it debuts in May of 2024. She is also a freelance writer for The Autism Helper. When she's not writing, she and her family are most likely crusing the waters of Tampa Bay.