My motto, as a former Home Economics teacher, planner, and time manager is this:
Do no job before it’s time! I carry that into may other areas of life, but one area it won’t work is in the care of our children with special needs!
I don’t want to do what doesn’t need to be done, until it needs to be done. I don’t have the time or energy to do silly chores, errands, and things that waste my time. Example: I will not empty a wastebasket with 2 tissues in it unless it’s time to take out the trash; and then I might leave that wastebasket until next week and hope it fills up!
There are household things that no one will ever notice that you do….unless it’s not done for a long while! For instance, as the late 60’s comedian Phyllis Diller would say, “I don’t care if the kids write in the dust on my furniture….just don’t date it!” There are some things only you or I might see….guests and family members just wouldn’t notice it or pay attention at that first glance. BUT WE KNOW IT’S THERE!
However, when it comes to our children with special needs who are often noticed because they are already different in some way, I want you to know, there are some things we need to tend to before it gets to that point that it’s noticeable (and sometimes too late!) and we could have (but didn’t) do something about it. Here’s my list of things we can work on to make other things a little less noticeable or called attention to:
- POOR DENTAL HYGIENE and BRACES – Joey would look like a totally different person had we not given him braces. He tolerated them quite well, and has a great smile! He is complimented on that often! Also, some medications puff up the gums; but with good dental hygiene it can be cared for well.
- MANNERS – to the degree that our children are able, teach them to use good manners. Table manners, societal manners, speaking or keeping quiet manners, etc. To this day when I’m silly at the table and chewing with my mouth open to get someone to laugh, Joey will say, “Mom, that is rude.” Got me.
- DIRTY EARS OR NOSE – With Joey towering us at 6’4” tall, we might miss seeing dirty ears, but we will not miss that his nose is dirty. He could care less about his ears and nose (and other body parts!) but we make sure that he is clean and presentable. If our children can take care of those things, let them; if not, help them so they look presentable and don’t call unnecessary attention to the list of things that already call attention to them!
- UNTIED SHOES – Every “mom” out there will notice a mile away someone whose shoes are untied. It calls attention to that person right away. If they can’t tie their own shoes, we need to be sure (especially for safety sake) that their shoes are tied. If you’re not around to do that either double knot them so they don’t come out or get Velcro shoe clasped shoes. Easy fix.
- GET A GOOD HAIRCUT – Our Joey had (going bald now!) a lot of hair and also a lot of body oils, so when he hit high school and the shaved look was in, that was his new style. It was such a good and clean look for him – hygienically and stylishly. Additionally, for others – just get a nice current hair cut – something that takes little work, because we know that our children (or parents) with special needs just don’t think about or care about their hair.
- SLOPPY OR SOILED CLOTHING AND/OR DIAPERS – No matter the age (including loved ones in care facilities) this needs to be a top priority. Soiled clothing screams, “NO ONE CARES ABOUT ME!” I remember visiting my mother-in-law in a nursing facility as I did daily, and she was smelly. She was sitting in a messy diaper. I marched to the nurse’s station faster than Super Man flies. It was addressed immediately and never happened again there.
- BEHAVIOR – We all know those with special needs will not tolerate some things well (loud noises, smells, textures, crowded spaces, etc.) so we can try to eliminate the hardest ones and work on the other things to help our kids act appropriately. I know this is a tricky one. Sometimes things work; sometimes nothing will ever work. We work it out somehow. Time won’t allow details, but you’ve been there, and you know it’s important to work on this area!
I’m sure you can add your own thoughts to this list; this is just to get you started thinking and taking action where and while you can. We can “do no job before it’s time” in housework, but with our kids let’s make sure we do what we can, when we can, so some things aren’t quite as noticeable in a negative way!