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Teach me How to Use a Visual Schedule!

HELP!! I have to remind my kids to brush their teeth, find their shoes, and get their backpack every morning! I feel like I am nagging and nagging them so that they can get ready in the morning. Then if something goes wrong, my kids have breakdowns during multistep instructions! I am exhausted by saying the same thing over and over again day in and day out! I mean it is nearly the 80th day of school and they are acting like they have NEVER gotten ready for school in the morning? Why is that? HELP!

How many of you are nodding your head right now? There is a way to eliminate this frustration! The Answer? Many children on the Autism Spectrum have difficulty following spoken instructions, miss the social expectations, and get lost in all the multisteps it takes to get to perform a task. Visual Schedules are the answer!

Quickly, what is a Visual Schedule? Visual Schedule uses pictures and words to help children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) understand language better. Kids with ASD struggle socially, using language, and having limited interests or repetitive behavior. Visual schedules are used to help kids with ASD to 1) learn social skills, 2) follow directions, and 3) understand the expectations from others, therefore visual schedules help to lower the children’s anxiety.

WOW! You’ve made it very clear what a Visual Schedule is and how it helps kids who have ASD, so my next questions is, how do I teach my child how to use a visual schedule?

Great Question! There is a quick process to teaching kids how to use Visual Schedules. First you teach how to use a First-Then board. A First-Then board uses pictures and words to connect 1 step. It must be motivating and you must follow through on the what the board says in order for your child to trust it. For example if your child loves to swing use that as a motivator to get him to first put his coat on: Coat on then, swing! (Remember to use the least about of verbal/signed language because they struggle with language processes). Children with ASD need to visually see the step, and you immediately following through they begin to trust the First-Then board and then can follow more steps which lead into a visual schedule.

What if a challenging behavior pops up while I’m using the First-Then board?

If a challenging behavior happens, continue to physically prompt them through the task, and keep your focus on the board/task at hand and not the behavior. When I started working with Rosie with the First-then board she would start to cry throw her body down, but I continued to prompt her through it. Soon the throwing of her body stopped and then the crying stopped because she knew I would follow through on the motivation. For her, she loved to jump on the trampoline, so I use that motivation to complete "First dressed, then jump" boards. Her crying stopped and I no longer needed to prompt her.

WOW! Got it! I teach a First-Then board so that my child understand how directions work, then I move onto the Visual Schedule?

Yes! That is right! You can make visual schedules for 1) following directions or task, 2) to help communicate in social situations, or 3) understand the expectations of the situation so that they can follow through on what you have asked them to do. Remember that you can break down the tasks to the most basic element for visual schedules task by tasks to help them learn how to perform the task, then you can use a different schedule to help them learn routines, and so on and so forth!

The following video demonstrates how I am using the Visual Schedule with Rosie in order for her to complete her morning routine. This is the first of 3 videos demonstrating how I am teaching her how to use her visual schedule.

GREAT! I can’t wait to watch and share it with everyone! Thanks for all your support and help with Visual Schedules! Here’s to a better morning routine!

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