Yesterday was a day in our house. It was a day full of butting heads, tantrums, meltdowns, and unrest. At the end of the day, I looked back over what we had accomplished, and found one key element lacking: predictability.
My munchkin is at an age when she can understand first A, then B. But that is not always possible when she hears it, even after the 1,000th time. This leads to frustration on my part (Mommy needs to cook dinner before she can play with you.) and lack of understanding on her part (Why can’t you play now?).
Suddenly my special education brain kicked into gear: make a visual schedule. Duh!
A visual schedule is basically a pictorial representation of the day or a small chunk of the day. It uses images of events, places, and people to help students (and toddlers) organize themselves for the day. It is used a lot with kiddos on the Autism Spectrum or with attention/organization issues. Surely, I could adapt this for my 19 month old!
And you can use this same tool too, for any age child. With or without a disability. Here’s how;
- Choose a schedule base. This could be anything: piece of wood, empty picture frame, reinforced and laminated construction paper, whiteboard. Anything that is flat and will work for your family.
- Choose pictures. There are websites where you can pay for the pictures. They are standard issue stick men and women doing standard issue things. They are basic and non-specific to your child. Since this is for home use, you can use literally any pictures at all. I just did a quick Google search for images of things my daughter does, sees, and likes. For example: our specific car, our running stroller, and Elmo. Lots of kids like to see themselves doing the tasks or events. So, you might take a picture of your child at the zoo and use that to indicate that you will be going to the zoo.
- Print the pictures. And then cut them out into individual pieces. You will need to manipulate them. Ideally, you will laminate/reinforce them to increase their durability and lifespan.
- Determine a connection method. The whole point is that you will be able to attach these images to the visual schedule base. You can do this any which way you choose. I like Velcro. It provides a nice ripping sound when a task is done. If you have a magnetic base, use magnets. Just make sure that you are using opposites to connect. With Velcro, don’t use the fluffy side on both the base and the pictures. They won’t stick
- Introduce and practice. This isn’t a miracle worker, just a tool. So you will need to use it consistently and often. Introduce it slowly, and steadily. Don’t expect that your child will know a shopping cart means grocery store or errands or whatever it means to you. You need to teach that over and over and over again. Take the pictures with you, which might mean that you have a home chart and a travel chart. Whatever works for you to get your child to understand is fine.
With time and practice, this will help your child understand the order of their day, help them to anticipate the next thing, and understand the concept of first A and then B. My goal is to decrease meltdowns and increase learning time, since I am currently my daughter’s teacher.
Let me know how you organize your days! What works for you?