Sunday, February 24, 2013

Visual Schedule: Helping Your Child Get Through The Day

One of the great helps that we used with our son was a visual schedule.  He responded very well to this technique from about age 3-6, and now he can use a schedule he reads.  Executive function is a brain skill that helps us sequence ideas (e.g., what comes first, what comes next), plan ahead, anticipate likely outcomes, and manage time.  Because executive function is difficult in the autistic spectrum, our son often felt overwhelmed by the day.

There was no one intervention that "solved" that, but a schedule did give him a sense of structure, like he knew what to anticipate.  We used a visual schedule because he had some delay with talking, and when he was overwhelmed, his speech would get less and less.  The pictures were something that he could tune into quickly. 

In our house, we went around and took photographs of things he was likely to have on his schedule, like a picture of his school, his babysitter, our car, a therapist, etc.  We laminated the picture and put velcro on the back, allowing us to stick the picture on in any order appropriate for the day.  We also let him arrange a portion of the pictures so he could decide if he wanted to read a book before or after he took a bath, for example.

We also used a picture menu for him.  This cut down on "I'm hungry.  What do you have?"  We would put pictures on the menu of options available to him and he would pull off the food he wanted to "order."  This also allowed him to have some control and independence within the structure we provided.