For most of the kiddos that walk through my door, I will recommend a visual schedule for them, if one is not in place already.
Most of us whether we have additional needs or not, like to know what is happening in our day, week, month, year or even for some of us planners what might happen over the next five years.
For me, I count my diary or google calendar as my visual schedule. Both help me feel calm, organised and prepared.
Children are no different, they like to know what is happening around them and not surprisingly they would like to have a say in that as well.
If Autism is in your family, that desire for sameness/routine/structure is often even more pronounced. If ADHD or SPD is in your family, structure and visual supports can really help to ground and organise.
There are lots of different types of visual schedules. Step by step schedules (task analysis), time of day schedules (e.g. morning, bedtime, workstation) daily schedules, weekly schedules etc
Schedules can be presented using symbols, real life pictures or text depending on the ability and needs of your child. Schedules can be fixed or mobile, in hard copy or on an app.
When getting started with a visual schedule consistency & contingency is key. Try to have all the symbols that you are going to need. This can include a ? for times where you don’t have the symbol or picture you need e.g if you are going to a new place.
A lot of the kiddos I work with will need a lot of repetition and prompting when they get started, to look at the schedule, or start to manage it themselves. Patience is key here. When they are familiar with the schedule and understand that it corresponds with what is about to happen, you can start to give them choices e.g. walk or play ground, bath or shower.
I like this video and schedule from Pyramid Educational Consultants if you are looking for something durable this is a super option. https://pecs-unitedkingdom.com/shop/schedule-board-kit/
At the point where they understand what the schedule means, I would definitely include them when you are setting up the schedule for the day.
I often get asked “but what if I don’t know what is happening for the day?”, or “what if we have to change the plan?”. That is ok and it is a part of life but you can use the visual schedule to prepare your child e.g. you can introduce a change card and show them that/add it to the schedule when you need to add or remove something or change the order. Even better, you could add in a surprise card so that we can start to show that surprises are fun.
For more information, don’t hesitate to contact me or leave a comment below. I also have a highlight on my instagram called visual schedules.
Thanks for reading,