It is not secret that students with special needs crave order and routine in their day to day lives. One of the easy ways to help them maintain that order in their lives is a visual schedule. “I thought that was only for school,” you may be asking at this point. A visual schedule is beneficial to a child in any setting where they are unable to organize themselves for a transition.
“Shouldn’t my child be able to handle life at home without needing pictures? After all, home is their natural environment!”
Not necessarily. Any environment where the day to day activities deviate from a set routine, a child may feel out of control wondering what is coming next. Often, the more stress caused by a situation, the more structure needed.
For home use, a picture card schedule can portray entire day’s activities, or detail the mini steps of one activity, such as brushing teeth. “On the fly” drawings can help reduce anxiety brought on by a change in plans, or just let the child know what comes next. The goal is to create an environment where each person can operate successfully.
Visual schedules are easy to make in the home. They do not require any special equipment. All you need is a camera, printer, and some tape, and paper clips.
Many parents are initially intimidated by the task of making schedules. Their reasons include fear of over-structuring their lives, concern that schedules are too much work to make, and concern about what happens if the schedule changes.
Here is what I suggest:
Step 1: I have provided simple, picture cards as .pdf files to build a customized schedule. Select, print and cut out the appropriate picture cards. Taking real pictures of items is always appropriate. (Some families like to laminate the cards for long-term use) (Get the cards in a zip file by clicking here.)
Step 2: Attach each picture card by paper clip in sequential order on a heavy piece of paper or cardboard. Clip an envelope to the bottom of the strip with the picture or the word FINISHED on it.
Step 3: Show your child how to remove the picture card as the activity is completed and put in the “finished” envelope. This teaches the concept of completing an activity and transitioning to the next. Keep the schedule in the bedroom or wherever your family congregates to allow access to the schedule at all times.
**Should an activity “POP UP” that you had not planned for, draw a quick picture to represent the change. Take a moment to share with your child the change in their schedule and make them a part of posting it on their strip. Refer to the change often.
Rules to Remember
BREAK IT DOWN and WRITE IT DOWN! — Break down each activity into segments and then display pictures accordingly. Remember the small things may be important to your child, such as trips to the bathroom or washing their hands.
REMIND, REMIND, REMIND — Remind the child to check the schedule, highlighting things in their day that may be different.
IF YOU THINK THEY MIGHT BE CONFUSED, PLAN ON IT — If you think even a small change in your child’s routine may frustrate them, plan and picture it accordingly.
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