We all use one. Yours may be on your iPhone, computer, tablet, or you may even use old-fashioned pen and paper…..it’s your schedule, your lists, your to-dos and more. What are you doing today? What things do you have to pick up from the store? What did you not get done yesterday? We all do it differently, but we all somehow have a schedule of our day. It is because of this form of organization that we know what will happen and we know what to expect. Now imagine going through one day or even one hour without this. I personally would be lost. This is how your child may feel. Using a visual schedule everyday all day long allows your child to plan, organize, and predict what will happen next. By allowing them to see what is coming next it will decrease their anxiety and; therefore, decrease transition difficulties.
Creating and implementing a daily schedule is one of the best things that you can do for your child. Just like you, they have anxiety of the “unknown”. They want and need to know what is coming next. Over the years we have worked with many families that say, “My family can’t use a schedule….we have no idea what is happening next….we don’t organize our day….we like to go with the flow” or, “We can’t use a schedule….our day changes every single day.” We then tell them, a schedule is perfect for you!
The purpose of using a schedule is to help our children become more dynamic, within both their thoughts and actions. We want them to be okay with change. Most of our children are very routine and rigid. They may have emotional breakdowns or major meltdowns when something in their schedule changes. That is why we want to teach them how to use a visual schedule and help them be more dynamic. We want the schedule itself to become their “safe routine” so that it does not matter if something changes in their schedule.
The next resistance that we get with a schedule is that “Won’t it become a crutch for my child?”. The answer to that is “YES!” A visual schedule, like all visuals, will become a crutch only if it doesn’t change. This is why you want to be aware of their transactional supports as they change (changes within understanding, expressive language, play, social skills, academic skills and much more), so that you can make changes to consistently push your child and change their routines once they ready. And yes, this means that we change their schedule once they are ready for change. Remember little changes are big changes for all our kids.
We have included four different visual schedule examples: how to set them up and how to use them.
Visual Poster Board Schedule
Using a visual poster board schedule is the best place to start.
You want to find a place in your house that you and your child see often like: a wall in their bedroom, the refrigerator, a wall in the kitchen, etc. Next write out what your child does each day: bathroom, school, brush teeth, bath, Chick-fil-A, etc. Once you have your schedule made and assembled then it is time to start using it.
Each morning, prepare your child’s schedule in advance by placing the pictures symbols on the Velcro in the correct order. You probably will not be able to put a whole day’s worth of events on the schedule at a time. This is okay. A good reference point is mealtime. If you cannot fit a whole day’s events on the schedule at a time, go up until lunch. Once lunch is finished, prepare the rest of the day’s schedule. Remember, using the schedule is new for your child. They will not be able to do this without your help. You will have to help them physically move the pictures. When it’s time to check the schedule, say, “time to check schedule” or “check your schedule.” You can even make up a song to about “checking their schedule”. You or your child will then place a picture under the “time for slot” and the completed event in the “finished” pocket. Use the language, “_______ is finished. Time for _______.”
It is important to use the schedule at all times. Remember there may be times that your child doesn’t look at the pictures. This is okay. They have to learn how to use the schedule and they have to learn what each picture represents. If you are consistent and you use the schedule all day long everyday, you should see an increase within independence within a few weeks.
The biggest tip while using visuals is that if it is not easy for you to use and if it is not easily accessible for you, then you will not use it. Make it easy on yourself. Spend time at night preparing for the morning.
Once your child becomes familiar with using the schedule at home, you may consider using it as both a home schedule as well as a traveling schedule.
Visual Binder Schedule
Using a visual binder schedule is a great way to allow your schedule to travel with you throughout your day.
You want to use this schedule the same way as the visual poster board schedule. Using it while you are on-the-go is a little trickier than at home. If there are times where you check the schedule for your child while narrating what is happening, this is okay. If there is no time to get to a scheduled event, this is okay. Just take the picture off and work on “no time for ____”. For instance, “no time for TV, time for restaurant!” If you forget to put a picture symbol on the schedule, that is okay. Just quickly place it on and work on “oh no! forgot!” or “that’s okay!” or have your child help you find the picture that you forgot. Even though there may be times where you feel like your child doesn’t necessarily need the schedule or if you don’t use it all the time, then it will be ineffective on the days that your child actually does need it.
Remember, your overall goal is to allow your child to see what is planned for the day so that they can cognitively plan and organize their day. This will decrease their anxiety and decrease transitioning difficulties. It will also work on them becoming a more dynamic thinker.
To purchase your own visual schedule, visit the our KidSpeak, LLC Store at www.kidspeakdallas.com/store/
Visual Temporal Schedule
Using a temporal schedule is a great tool for your child to use if they go to many different places throughout their day:
If different people pick them up from school on different days:
If your child has the same schedule throughout the week but experiences at least one different event each day (speech on Monday, play group on Tuesday, karate on Wednesday, etc.), a visual temporal schedule is a good idea. You can place this in their backpack, in their locker, in your car, etc.
Visual List Schedule
Using a “list schedule” is a great idea for events that do not change. If there is any possibility for change, do not use this format. For example, if your child’s morning routine at school is always the same, then using this is a great tool. You place the list schedule in a plastic sleeve and place it on their desk, in their desk, in a folder, in their locker, somewhere easily accessible for them. You may find that using a combination of the temporal schedule, list schedule and dry erase board is the best for you. Here is an example of a list schedule:
Visual Dry Erase Board Schedule
Using a dry erase board is fast and easy. You may want to place a dry erase board in several locations: bedroom, kitchen, car, etc. Remember, if it is not easily accessible, you are probably not going to use it. When first transitioning to a dry erase board you want to list out what you are doing and draw out a little picture:
When each activity is finished, you can either cross off the activity or erase it. Just like when you started using the visual poster/binder schedule, you will not be able to write everything on your wipe off board.
Remember your main goal is to help your child decrease their anxiety within activities/transitions by preparing them in advance. So when you feel that your child doesn’t necessarily need a schedule anymore, rather than stop using a schedule, change the method (visual poster board to a visual binder to a temporal schedule to lists to dry erase boards). After the dry erase board has run its course, look at your child’s peers and see what they are doing (ask their teachers, ask other parents) and move your child to what their peers are doing (written schedule, digital schedule, etc.). Remember, we all use some form of a schedule and our main goal is to move your child to the form that their peers are using.
Here is a list of supplies that you will need to put these schedules together and places that you can find them:
-Lamination, poster board, binders, plastic sleeves: Target, Walmart, Staples, Office Max
-Velcro: Walmart, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Staples, OfficeMax
-Dry Erase Boards: www.discountschoolsupply.com, Target, Walmart, OfficeMax, Staples
You may also ask your speech therapist or your child’s teachers to supply visuals for your schedule.
The Picture Communication Symbols
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