Once upon a time we used to live in a two bedroom apartment. (A year ago actually). There were two bedrooms but we all lived in one. The second bedroom was K's therapy/school room. The only storage area was crammed with games and toys and other items required to run a home ABA program.
However with a new baby, I felt it would be very difficult for four people, one of them with autism and the other a new born, to live in one room. So we moved upstairs to a larger, 3 bed apartment.
This obviously increases our living costs. Try doing a 3 bed in the city of Toronto. I think we live in the only building in the city that gives you the best value for your money.
K and his baby sister share one room (most of the night! People migrate in this house in the middle of the night to various locations). My husband and I got one room to ourselves at last.
And this is the third (master, although same size as the others) room. It is the therapy and homeschool room. It is K's space in this house that is exclusively for him.
We are fortunate that we have been able to provide a space for him that is a room on its own. But sacrifices have been made and will continue to be made to achieve this. There is a third baby arriving in April. (What? Did she really say that? More on that later, lets focus on "decluttering" for now). So four people will be living out of two rooms and two small closets.
We also have an L shaped living room. This is one arm of the L.
It is also a space for people to read, and for me to work. We have no television. Kids watch and do stuff on this computer.
That is the other arm of the L-shaped living room. That's it.
That is my living room. There are no tables or anything. If we get more than four people coming over, well they just have to make use of the floor. That dining table that you can barely see in the corner, I am thinking of getting rid of it for a smaller one. So more space can be created if the need arises.
The storage again is filled with K's materials. I do not hoard. I have no pictures, decorative ornaments, vases, plants or pets. My husband and I share a tiny closet, so do the kids.
If you have a house with children, large sofas and coffee tables, huge entertainment centre, TV blaring, designer dining area, decorative ornaments, loads of furniture in the rooms and so on, then chances are you are NOT decluttered.
Decluttering is important for homeschooling. The children need a designated space for themselves and easy access to their own materials. These need to be organized in bins and shelves not piled up in a box on top of one another. Children also need to be taught to clean up after themselves and for that there needs to be a place where everything goes.
When you add a special kid in the mix who will experience sensory overload at the mere sound of footsteps walking in his direction, then it becomes even more essential to do your best to provide a decluttered and simple environment.
Organisation has been key in teaching K independence too. Last year when we would sort our laundry together as an RDI activity, in the end he would only be able to put his underpants away in their respective area in his closet. He would often put shoes in the sink, dishes in the garbage and so on, when asked to put stuff away. I would have to follow him at a distance and if he was going to make a mistake then I would physically step in and point or guide his reference to the correct area and he would either get it or need further prompts to the place where he needed to place the item.
All this practise has finally paid off. Now K's receptive understanding of where dishes go, where socks go, where underpants go and where shoes go and so on. These are great frameworks for teaching problems solving. For eg, what happens if the sink is full of dirty dishes (happens a lot around here)? Then dishes need to be put in other empty spaces. On a good day he can figure this out, placing them on the counter and even the hob. Many many dishes have broken in this process of learning. I shop for my dishes from dollar stores or used stores like goodwill.
Inclusion has to start in the home.
The moral of this post is that when one person in the house has special needs, everyone has to work together to incorporate their needs in their home, their sanctuary. This does not mean you prefer them over your other children, but they are special due to their inability to function in certain situations. So those who are able need to adapt and make the compromises. They also need to be taught how to interact and behave around their special family member, to the best of their ability. That is inclusion. Inclusion is not that you throw a person in a situation they cannot handle and then tolerate them or have pity on them. Which seems to be the case in almost every environment we go to, whether its someone's house or in the community.
(Hopefully we can teach our daughter how to be the best sibling for
K and in the process teach K to do his best in return.)
Inclusion is to pay special attention to the needs of the special needs individual and then design the environment or interaction around that so it is mutually beneficial.
Declutter your space. You don't have to have a house, backyard and beautifully finished basement to do it. We are a single income family. There are many expenses, but the rewards of a peaceful home, an organised space and a happy child are priceless. Mind you, it is not always clean or tidy, but always a work in progress.
I dont have so much room, what do I do?
I find you can still create space to have some sort of designated area however small for your child to work and de-stress.
Noise can be reduced by eliminating TV altogether or at least when the family is sitting together. Its hard enough to hang around "people" than to add TV and other noise to that environment. We do not watch things together as a family. If K watches a short show or something on the computer, it is for a few minutes by himself. If I want to watch a lecture or use the computer for something it is on my own time.
Get smaller, compact furniture. Don't get more than what you absolutely need. This place is your home, not a place for other people to come and hang out and go wow. If you have limited space, cater it more to your needs than the need to entertain others.
Use space effectively. I use a lot of under-bed storage. Don't store things for years thinking you will use them. Except for a few toys, I have nothing from a few years ago.
I will try to do a follow up post on how to shop and be special on an average income. InshaAllah (If Allah wills).