Strategies to support organisation skills development
This is a very easy way to organise school books, household bills or your desk in work.
For school, all english books, copies and workbooks can be kept in a red folder. The same system can be used for all subjects. For example, geography can be green and maths can be blue. This makes packing your bag and using your locker during school easier.
This method can be used to organise post by family member, or by level of importance. For instance, outstanding bills in a red folder, takeaway menus in a green folder.
For work, you can label tasks that need to be completed this week orange and things to be completed today black. This can be changed to suit you.
Lists can be very useful for anyone who needs to keep track of daily tasks. They also benefit anyone who is a bit forgetful. Lists can be made on phones or in a notepad.
Using a list will help you remember what food you need to buy when you go shopping.
A ‘morning list’ or ‘bedtime list’ can be helpful for anyone who is anxious or for those who like a structured routine. This can be helpful for children getting ready for school or adults getting ready for work.
Whether these are on your phone, or on your wall, calendars are a great way of staying organised. They allow you to see appointments, birthdays and holidays in advance. As a result, they can help reduce anxiety and allow for more time to plan for events and changes in routine.
A child can use this to keep track of different activities going on throughout the week, like sports club or when they will have a babysitter.
An adult can use a calendar to keep on top of daily tasks like bin collection, paying bills, and reminders to lodge money into savings.
Why is it important?
Good personal hygiene is hugely important ,some autistic people may struggle with this. Poor hygiene can negatively impact your social life, employment prospects and can lead to social isolation. To better understand the difficulties of maintaining good personal hygiene, it is important to discuss the barriers and potential solutions.
What are the barriers to good personal hygiene?
Sensory difficulties may impact on the ability to maintain personal hygiene levels. Examples of these are; the feeling of a toothbrush, the sensation of water on the skin, the smell of products or using a hairbrush. However, these issues are individual to each person.
Transitioning from one task to the next without reminders or prompts may also be difficult. Because of this, simple tasks like moving from washing your hair to washing your body can be difficult.
Timing can also be an issue. For example, common timing issues can include not knowing the length of time you need to brush your teeth, not knowing how much time has passed and how to know when you have been in the shower for an appropriate amount of time.
How to develop or maintain good personal hygiene
Create a personal hygiene routine for yourself or family member that can be followed at specific times. These specific times can be; after waking up, before and after eating, before going to asleep, after using the bathroom.
Visual supports can be there to guide you or your family member to the next task. This can be in the form of pictures or words in the bathroom and bedroom. For example, a checklist of tasks for brushing your teeth at the bathroom sink can help with staying on track.
Modelling allows for the person with autism to see how they are expected to do a task before doing it themselves. This allows for the task involved to be broken into smaller steps. For example, if the person has never shaven their legs or their face before, this is something which can be shown by a parent, or sibling.
Checklists provide a greater level of privacy and independence as it allows for tasks to be completed without additional support. These lists can be either a list of the separate tasks involved within each task (floss teeth, brush teeth, rinse with mouthwash) or a whole process (brushing teeth routine). Checklists can also be adapted to meet different needs and levels of support and can be changed as support required decreases.
Hygiene kits allow for a greater level of independence. Each ‘Hygiene Kit’ can be made for a specific task and stored in the room where they will be used. For better organisation they can also be colour coded and labelled.
Examples of personal hygiene kits
Tooth brushing kit: toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, mouthwash, timer and checklist all inside.
Shower kit: shower gel, shampoo, conditioner and a loofa/face cloth.
Shaving kit: manual razor, electric razor, shaving foam, post shave balm for the face and a face cloth.
Feminine hygiene kit: tampons, sanitary pads, liners, pain killers and a hot water bottle.
General kit: cold sore cream, bonjela, plasters, nail clippers and paracetamol.
Why is budgeting important?
Keeping track of what you are spending money on and reduces the fear of overspending.
It helps to avoid going overdrawn on your bank account by spending money that you don’t have.
It can help to identify whether you can afford to buy something that you would like.
It support you in managing debt by planning repayments that you can afford.
It allows you to put money into your savings.
Who can help me make a budget?
MABS (Money Advice Budgeting Service) provide free online budgeting tools for weekly or monthly budgets. For instance, it categorizes your expenditure into different areas like groceries, medical and travel.
Your local bank branch will be able to provide this service. You can make an appointment to sit down with someone to help you better understand your income and expenses.
A family member can help identify areas of saving or cutting costs. For example, changing grocery shops can save you money on your weekly shop.
Being in receipt of Disability Allowance provides you with free travel on all forms of public transport, other than the night link and express services with a travel pass.
Alternatively, you can use a Leap Card. Leap card fares are cheaper than cash fairs. The app allows you to track your spending and top up using a phone.
An emergency fund is helpful for when you are low in money or stuck in a situation you would like to get out of. For example, you might need to get a taxi if you are feeling anxious.
Having €20 in your wallet or purse to use is a simple emergency fund option.
Many people decide to set aside some of their wages or allowances received into a savings account.
Savings can be with a bank, credit union, post office or revolut account.
Direct debits automatically take money out of your account. You can save as little as €20 a month.
Benefits of having a bank account
Keeping your money safe
Allowing you to pay bills through direct debit (rent, phone bill, electricity)
Using online banking
Disability allowance and wages are paid into your bank account so that you are not carrying large sums of money, leaving you vulnerable to robbery
Debit cards are used to pay for most things these days and can also use it to withdraw money from your account using an ATM
A savings account can be set up along with your current account
Local bank branches will have a budgeting service
It is important to have a back-up plan in case you lose your card or it gets stolen. Talk to a family member, friend or support staff you are linked in with about how to make a plan that works for you. This plan could be as easy as;
Call a family member to let them know what has happened and so you can talk to someone when you are upset or anxious.
Ring the bank to cancel your stolen card or order a new card if you need it.
Have some cash in your purse/wallet for expenses until your new card arrives.
Pick a place which you would like to travel to. This can be a nearby town, college, school, or somewhere that interests you, like a museum or the zoo.
If the route is long, it might be worth starting off by doing part of the route rather than the full route. Splitting the route in to segments may reduce your anxiety.
Use google maps, or similar, to see what forms of transport are available to you. Your route may have multiple kinds of public transport options and will give you a breakdown of estimated journey times.
Having a family member or friend accompany you when you are learning a new route is hugely beneficial, they can be there to help if you are feeling anxious, or if you would like to go back home.
If you are practicing your route, starting off at an off-peak time may be less stressful.
If you are practicing a route to get you at your destination at a particular time, for example, college, it is important to eventually trial this route at the specific time so that you have a clear idea of the length of time needed for your journey.
Although a lot of forms of public transport have real time alerts for the next stop, it is important to identify landmarks along your route. These can be schools, churches, parks etc. This can be done during your practice travelling sessions with your family member.
Technology to help
Many forms of public transport have apps which give an estimated time of arrival at stops. Dublin Bus, Luas, Irish Rail and Bus Eireann all have real time information available.
Timetables are also available that break down your chosen route and its different stops, along with estimated journey times. It is important to allow for extra time around these, as they do not take into consideration road works or high levels of traffic.
Paying for public transport
A disability travel pass can be used on all forms of public transport (which does not include taxis or buses run by private companies).
If you do not have one, payment for public transport depends on the service.
Irish rail allows you to purchase tickets at a ticket machine which accepts cards and cash.
Bus Eireann allows payment in cash on board the bus.
Dublin bus only accepts coins or a leap card which can be topped up using the app, in local shops and at Luas stations.
The Luas allows you to purchase tickets at each stop using cash or cards using the ticket machine, but leap cards can also be used and validated at the tag on stations before getting on to the Luas, just remember to tag off when you get off the bus or luas or train!
Other options to transport include walking, cycling with your own bike or using a city bike service (dubinbikes or bikeshare in Galway, Cork and Limerick) which are between 10-25 euro for a year’s membership with unlimited use.
Have a back-up plan
It is important to have a back-up plan in case something happens that changes your plans.
(You might get the wrong bus, get the right bus but in the wrong direction, miss your stop or the bus/luas/train might be too full for you to get on to it).
These things happen but it is important for you to make a plan so that if they do, you don’t get too stressed or anxious.
Make a plan for in case you become anxious during your journey. Share and discuss this plan with someone close to you so that they can reply to a text or call you if you get in touch while travelling.
Sometimes when using public transport, someone may strike up a conversation but typically people do not like to talk to strangers while on public transport and keep to themselves.
People often like to sit in a particular seat when using public transport. We often gravitate towards this seat. Sometimes the seat will be free and sometimes it wont. If it is not free, pick an empty seat.
However, if the bus is mostly empty but someone is sitting beside your favourite seat, it may make them uncomfortable if you sit beside them.
If you have sensory difficulties, make yourself a sensory kit to bring with you while you travel. This can include your headphones so you can listen to music or a podcast, a book, a fidget, sunglasses, a hat etc.
This sensory kit may help you feel less anxious and will dilute some of the senses which are causing stress.
Before you leave the house
Research sensory friendly shopping times in your local shop, if available. Check what time and day of the week that these are on. Alternatively you can consider visiting your local shops at an off-peak time.
Plan your meals so that you don’t buy too little or too much food. Deciding what meals you will be having in the week will also help you plan ahead and will help complete your shopping list.
Have a list in your kitchen which you can add to throughout the week for food and household supplies that you need to buy. This can then be used as part of our shopping list. Depending on what works better for you, have a written list and bring a pen to the shops with you to tick the items off your list, or make a list on your phone, or a shopping list app.
If you have sensory difficulties while shopping, bring your headphones and listen to some music while going around the shop. If the bright lights bother you, bring sunglasses with you. It is often quite cold in supermarkets, wear something comfortable to keep you warm if you are sensitive to temperatures.
Visit the shop with a friend or family member and take pictures of the layout of the shop so that you are less apprehensive when you go by yourself and you will have a better idea of where certain items are located.
What to bring with you
The important things to remember: Phone, Keys, Wallet/Purse
Your shopping list, on paper
Bring a €1 or € 2 coin with you for a trolley, some shops take different coins, or get a keyring for shopping trolleys
Sensory supports: Headphones and playlist, sunglasses, gloves, fidgets etc
When you get there
Using a shopping trolley in the supermarket is often less stressful than a basket as it means you do not need to pack your bags at the checkout and can place all groceries back in the trolley and pack your bags at the bag packing area afterwards, at your own pace. You can decide what best works for you.
When choosing meat and dairy products, make sure you look at the use by date and try to get the date farthest away.
Frozen vegetables are really handy to have, as they don’t spoil like fresh vegetables. Buying frozen vegetables like corn, peas, peppers, spinach and broccoli are handy to keep in your freezer to use for dinners.
When at the cash desk/till, unload your groceries onto the belt. Try to pack similar foods together, cleaning supplies together, meats together, frozen foods together, and don’t squish bread or eggs at the bottom of your bags. You can pay with your bank card, phone (if you have it registered to your bank card) or with cash.
There are self-service checkouts available in some supermarkets and these allow for you to go at your own pace. These are only for customers with baskets and not for those with trolleys.
When you get home
Unpack your shopping and place them in the fridge and presses. Make sure you put anything frozen away first.
Relax after completing your grocery shop. Do something nice for yourself, even if it is just to sit with a cup of tea to help you decompress.
Don’t use food after their use by date.
If you have forgotten something on your list, its ok, it happens to everyone. Put the forgotten items on your new shopping list and get it in next grocery shop. If the item is needed that day, you could pop in to your local shop.