8 Simple Steps to Help Remember Your Autistic Child’s Appointments
Keeping track of doctor and therapy appointments is difficult for any person to do, when you throw an autistic individual in the mix it becomes even arduous.
Families of autistic individuals tend to have up to, if not more than, twice as many appointments a month than a family without a special needs individual in it. Some of us are auspicious enough to have a personal assistant to remind us or to have a remarkable memory and find no need in writing a thing down. In either case I tip my hat to you. In my world we are worn-out from staying up all night with an autistic child and can’t even remember where we put our glasses let alone where we are supposed to be that day. Therefore writing everything down is a must.
What I found over the last 11 years raising an autistic child is that there’s a way to handle appointments and a way not to handle appointments when it comes to remembering them. Are you wondering what those ways are? On the edge of your seat wondering what you can do to save the money you keep spending in late show/no show fees for your doctor’s office because you forgot? Well, read on.
Making and Remembering Doctor Appointments
Appointment days are hectic; just getting to the appointment and through it in one piece is something to be applauded for. Trying to remember the date and time given to you at the end of the appointment in the midst of all the chaos is beyond unfeasible. You would think that the most obvious aid to use would be those little appointment reminder cards the doctor’s office gives you when you leave. I don’t know if you are like me or not but those cards within a few days, never to be seen again. It’s a quite disturbing phenomenon. They are good for an initial reminder once you get home but they are not great long term aids to remind. Let’s look at some tips to keep track of your autistic child’s doctor’s appointments.
Keep a large, visible calendar
I cannot express how useful this tip is. Use a medium to large size dry erase wall calendar, hung where it is visible to the whole family. Hanging the calendar central to the family’s main living area is the best idea. This helps involve the whole family in the appointment process and keeps double appointments from happening. This also plays as a visual aid for autistic individuals. This visual aid, combined with tip #2, has been the absolute biggest help for my family.
Color code said calendar
Color coding your family appointment calendar (with dry erase markers monthly) serves as an easy way to identify who has an appointment on what day at a moment’s glance. The color coding also aids in the visual aid element for an autistic child. Make sure to create a legend, or go a step further and add pictures to the calendar if using it as a visual aid as well. This tip is one of the most helpful things I do in my personal life.
Use the technology you have at hand
You wouldn’t believe how few people use the calendars on their cell phones and computers to remind them of appointments. These are great ways to keep yourself from having one of those horrid moments where you realize 15 minutes after an appointment that you had one that day! There are also numerous resources you can find on your computer and through app stores that are specifically geared towards autistic children.
Keep a binder
I highly recommend this tip. If your family happens to be like mine you have [what feels like] a million appointments a month. I’ve found keeping an appointment binder helps keep records together, plan for upcoming appointments, and keep track of illnesses. It’s a great resource to have all the way around. This element also adds the possibility of keeping track of your older autistic child’s appointments alongside them. Working this into the appointment routine with my autistic son has been a big help.
Sign up for the reminder calls your doctor’s office offers
I don’t know of any doctor’s offices/therapists who don’t offer reminder calls and/or text messages for upcoming appointments. I cannot even begin to tell how many times this service has saved me with my own appointments.
Send an email
Have your significant other or a close friend send you an email two nights before the appointment to remind you of your upcoming obligations. I say two nights beforehand so you are left with plenty of time to reschedule without paying a fee if you forgot about the appointment and need to reschedule. Whenever your significant other or friend sends the email make sure and have them put the family member’s name in the subject line so that the email stands out to you. To some this may be the absolute best way to remember an appointment.
Keep a calendar in your car
Dashboard calendars are great resources to remember what you have going on. Simply use a marker to circle the days that you or your family member has an appointment. Use the same color coding process you use on the dry erase board in the house. This way you remember what color belongs to who.
Go back to the basics
One of my biggest allies is the post it note. As an author I have them all over my office to remind me of research for a book I am writing or a topic I’m considering doing an article about and so on. As a mother I have them all over my kitchen wall to remind me of daily appointments. I use a different color post it note for each family member, again for the momentary recognition of who has an appointment and when. If you don’t like post it notes--index cards and tape work just as well.
These 8 tips are almost guaranteed to help you remember the excessive appointments required when raising an autistic child. It’s nothing to have 7 appointments in one week for my autistic son then 5 the next week for him, and so on. For most people remembering all of these are impracticable without some sort of aid. If your family is like mine I implore you to take advantage of these 8 great tips.