Many kids with autism use a picture schedule at school, but how many use a picture schedule at home? It really is not that difficult to set up (especially with the free download below) and can be really helpful in managing behaviors and building independence.
Maybe it is summer vacation or schools are closed for an unknown period of time. Regardless, you find yourself at home with your kiddos and things feel slightly out of control. It is fun for a few days to sleep as late as you want, watch as much TV as you want, even eat whenever you want. But, after a while, we all crave a routine. Our kids, especially if they struggle with any type of disability, really need a routine.
Most teachers in the special education setting use a picture schedule of some sort for their students, either individually or as a class, or both. Students will often remove the pictures as they progress through the day. How many pictures to have at one time totally depends on the makeup of the class and the students.
Why use a picture schedule at home?
Setting up and using a schedule, even at home, is really easy and something your child (and you) will benefit from. The key is consistency. Using a schedule is not something you want to do when you feel like it. A schedule is something you should commit to using on a daily basis. It will greatly ease your child’s anxiety and decrease problem behaviors you may be dealing with. I have a blog post I wrote for teachers about the importance of having a schedule as a behavior management tool. Check out that blog post for some great information.
When you use a picture schedule at home or at school it gives the student/child an idea of what is coming next. Is it something he/she finds enjoyable? Is it one of those pesky chores? Can he/she spy something down the road that will be fun, as soon as the homework or walking the dog is complete?
Executive functioning skills, or being able to plan and multi-task, is something individuals with disabilities truly struggle with. It is not that they are forgetful, scattered or stubborn. It truly is often an inability to envision what the next few hours may be like and how to plan accordingly. Therefore, when we give them an actual schedule to see and follow, their brain no longer has to work to figure that out. Their anxiety level often lessens and behaviors that stem from being uncertain and uncomfortable decrease. It seems like such a simple thing to hang up 5 picture cards, but it can make all the difference to how your morning will run. Just ask any special ed teacher.
How to use a picture schedule at home
First, grab the free set of schedule cards by clicking the button below. I have 45 different cards in color and black and white.
You will want to print them out on card stock and cut them apart. If you do not have card stock, then simply glue them to index cards. Ideally, they would be laminated, but I realize most people do not have a laminator at home. So, use some packing tape. I do it all the time for small things, and it works great.
Next, you need a long piece of cardboard to mount the cards to. You can display them either vertically or horizontally.
Finally, I would normally say to use Velcro to attach the cards to the cardboard. But, I also realize this is likely something parents do not have sitting around the house. So here are some alternatives:
If you have never used a schedule at home before, I would recommend only displaying 5-7 activities at one time. If you have older kids, you can add the actual times each activity will be occurring. You will need to play around with what works best for your child.
The child will take the next picture off the schedule and carry it to that particular location. You can have a small basket or envelope there to put it in. Taking the card off and carrying it to the next activity is an important part of the process.
One other helpful hint is to use a visual timer for highly preferred activities. If your child has trouble transitioning off of the computer or some other digital device, then setting a timer that actually shows how much time is left can be helpful.
I know these are unprecedented and stressful times. Keeping your kids and yourself on a schedule can be more helpful than you may think.
One last note, if you missed my announcement earlier, you can grab this book about Staying Home for FREE in my Free Resource Library. If you have the password, head there now, or if you need the password, then sign up HERE.