10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1….Happy New Year!  And with the change of the calendar , so comes the automatic lists of New Year’s Resolutions.

It seems everyone makes them.  The young, the old, those who want to fine tune their lives and those who want to almost completely revamp everything.  The funny thing is that for most, those resolutions are forgotten or broken by mid-to- late January.

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Yes, those are the words I just said today to Elizabeth, my 24 year-old daughter who has special needs. You see we make a planner for her each Sunday for the next week. And on it we put appointments, time with friends, work schedule and pretty much anything else that she needs to do each week. It sits proudly on the kitchen table and serves as the basis for each day. The planner can be adjusted as needed.

So the planner SHOULD by itself serve as the guide for her day and be used by Elizabeth on her own, when she needs to see what is on tap for the day and what she needs to get ready for next.

But she STILL asks me what time is this? or when is my singing lesson?

Which leads me to the above phrase said to her.

For those who don’t know our story, Elizabeth has 2 disorders that affect her life each and everyday.

Each and every MINUTE!

of

Each and every DAY!

She has global dyspraxia and sensory processing disorder (SPD) both of these disorders she has had since birth and earlier in her life, it was the SPD that affected her days the most and created the anxiety that she had when she was in a new situation, with new people or well, pretty much anything new at all. And now that she is older, it her dyspraxia that is the one that mostly affects her now.

Her dyspraxia affects how she is able to stay organized, plan how to do a skill, and the steps needed to perform the skill as well as how to organize the steps to do the skill. It affects her motor skills both fine and gross motor as well as her oral motor skills. But it is the hidden effects that challenge her greatly when it comes to day-to-day life of a young adult.

So we have learned what supports she needs in her days. Hence the planner and hence the guidance for her to use the planner first instead of asking us.

This whole planner things got me thinking about how we will be filling it for her week of vacation which is December 23rd through January 3rd. Due to the way the Christmas and New Year falls, she will not be working at her catering job and due to schools being closed for break, she will not be working her job at Gymsters.

So we WILL be needing to adjust accordingly and make sure to put some things on the schedule/planner to keep her day structured. Because those with Dyspraxia can see an open-ended day as quite anxiety producing, so some structure will be in order.

We also need to put things on the planner to help her adjust to any new thing we might be doing. For example, we are headed to a new eye doctor who will be doing an evaluation for vision therapy for Elizabeth. This needs to go on the planner and we will for sure be talking this through as well.

For those of you who are looking at the break off for the holidays and know that it will stress out your child with special needs, something to consider is a calendar/planner/ chart that will help them see or look at pictures of the things that they will be doing that day.

It can be placed in a central location like the kitchen or in their rooms, really any place that it will be helpful and noticed.

I have found over the years that talking about big things we are doing as we plan them helps. Maybe a YouTube video of the activity or event can help them prepare, even if it something easy like sled riding. Seeing it always helped Elizabeth best.

I also found reinforcing the schedule was a good thing. Like dropping reminders that helped keep the focus on the calendar was a nice way to remind her without coming right out and telling her. It was a good way to encourage her too!

I know that the changes the holiday brings can be so challenging to our children so helping them to plan and adjust can take their anxiety down and allow for them to enjoy the holidays and all they bring to the best of their abilities.

So I wish everyone the best start to your holiday time. And remember that it doesn’t have to be perfect to be good.

And I wish everyone a peaceful holiday.

Michele Gianetti

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