“How May Times Do I Have to Tell You?”

If we’ve said this phrase once, we’ve said it a thousand times. The answer is, with Liam, at least when he was younger, “every time.” He needed to be reminded every time to do something due to lack of executive function skills (the brain’s administrative assistant).


At the same time that difficulty being organized kept Liam from remembering morning or bedtime routines, or how to stay organized at school, there were strategies that helped him remember things, until routines could be internalized.

Because he had to be told every time about specific things, we gave him a checklist like the one below, to help him remember what needed to be completed at critical times:


At school, Liam either had a teacher (usually his itinerant autistic support teacher), a classmate, or a checklist to help him pack up what he needed to bring home.

These external systems helped him remember without much reminding. They helped him learn independence and stop feeling frustrated about forgetting things.

They did wonders for his self-esteem and for us staying positive at home. No more, where’s your math homework? Did you remember to bring home your reading book?

The answer to the question became, no more times – I can do it on my own.

16 thoughts on ““How May Times Do I Have to Tell You?”

  1. Thank you for sharing this lovely piece. There is a lot to be learned here, I believe. How do adults foster not just “compliance,” but independence? You and Liam’s support team have masterfully orchestrated supports to not only help him BE successful, but FEEL successful. Isn’t that something we all want for the kids in our lives? Love the ideas here.

  2. Aileen, you got my attention with your title! As a parent, I’ve uttered that phrase countless times. Your posts about your children are instructive as well as heart warming. Your check list for Liam worked, because, I think, it’s specific. Lots of us can learn from your example.

  3. Your title totally drew me in as I say the same sort of thing at home. My daughter’s battles are with inattentiveness. We’ve had to revamp her morning and evening checklist, but it totally does make her more independent. Thanks so much for sharing.

  4. I’m just thinking about doing the Slice of Life Challenge and yours was the first link I clicked on today. Thank you for the inspiration to write about real life, and for sharing this story about your child!

  5. Thanks for sharing this…very uplifting. You mention some good ideas that I can apply to some of my family members as well as students. ~JudyK

  6. I live by checklists!! I love the title – we could all hear our voice in it and take away from your strategy and message. We all need scaffolds, systems and a path toward independence. Thank you for sharing.

  7. Aileen, thanks for sharing about Liam’s successes and learning to live independently with help from his strong network of supporters. I like Lanny’s comment too about fostering independence rather than compliance. He wants to and needs to do these things to be successful on his own, not just because you say so. Thanks for sharing your sweet stories.


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