That was my reaction when one of the many professionals we were seeing at the time told me my daughter needed a schedule. I was the one who needed the schedule! I was the one taking my non-verbal, two year old to this doctor visit, that therapy visit, and to see yada-yada professional each week. She needed a schedule? So I took a deep breath and went there. I asked exactly what kind of schedule my daughter needed at the age of two and exactly how was this going to work? WOW! Did I ever get an education that changed her life and ours.
Here is what that professional began to explain to me. The schedule would be a way for my daughter and I to communicate with one another. I was skeptical to say the least, but I knew I would give it a try. The more I listened, the more this schedule began to sound a little like my “to-do” list that got me through my days. Basically the schedule would outline for my daughter what activities were going to happen and in what order. Autism 101- our kids are visual learners and mine was certainly not verbal. So visual it was going to be.
BUT you have to learn to crawl before you can walk. So we started with an object schedule. This is a schedule using an object related to the activity that is about to happen. I would only show 2 or 3 objects at a time related to the activities we were doing and then I had a shoebox that had the word “finished” written on it, where she would place the object when we were done with the activity. This way she would know it was over.
- A bowl to indicate breakfast
- a toothbrush to indicate brushing teeth
- sock to indicate getting dressed
I would walk with her and the bowl to the kitchen to let her know that we were having breakfast. After breakfast the bowl would go into the “finished” box. Then we would go back to the schedule and get the toothbrush and head to the bathroom for brushing teeth with a different toothbrush and then walk the object toothbrush to the “finished” box and so on. We continued on with this schedule until I thought she was able to follow a picture schedule. The picture schedule would work the same way. We have since transitioned to an all word schedule. The picture below is a great example of how the transition takes place over time for someone who has Autism and is able to go to a complete word schedule. In fact, using a combination of pictures and words together during times of stress is a great way to relieve anxiety in a student learning a new skill or making a big transition.
Here is a sample of a morning picture schedule.
Here is a sample of breaking down a actual activity into individual parts. Kind of like a schedule/work system. It helps to serve as a reminder to complete each part of the activity.
Wait! That is too much for me as a parent and I can't see how our family can live with such a strict scheduled out day like that! Is that what you are thinking? I was right there with you. I quickly realized that once my daughter had learned the routine of a schedule and she really liked knowing what was next, that I had built in flexibility! All I had to do was to let her know in advance. I just did not fill in her schedule too far in advance. Choices and flexibility can be built into schedules. Schedules can relieve anxiety and is a vital step to independence beyond the classroom and the home. Let me ask you this, what if all the data from your calendar got deleted or you lost your day-timer? I would be stressed if that happened to me, so go ahead and take that leap. Try out schedules!
Schedules are for everyone! Make-A-Schedule is the perfect program for parents setting up picture schedules at home.
How have schedules made a difference for you?