Christmas time is over and it’s time to get back to our regular schedules. As a mom I knew the first few days would be rough with early mornings and bedtimes and just the general adjusting back to our norm. Weston struggled a lot more than I anticipated though. That first day back to our homeschool routine was a disaster. So much so that we just didn’t finish school that day. He was in meltdown mode trying to make it through the transition. At one point every book on our entertainment center was ripped off the shelves and thrown in the living room floor. By the end of the day we were both mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted. I knew I was going to have to make a change and bring more structure back into our schedule but I was at a loss and not thinking clearly. My goal was just to make it through the day. I reached out to a friend of mine who also has kids on the spectrum and she reminded me of visual schedules. DUH! I had just told another friend of mine about how helpful they are but we hadn’t used one in so long that the thought didn’t even cross my mind. So I wanted to share with you guys exactly what a visual schedule is!
Weston has used one before but I stopped using it because he didn’t seem to need it anymore *insert eye roll*. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it! After talking with my friend and looking over what they use, I went to Mardel and got a few things I would need and set out to create our new visual schedule. It’s almost exactly what she uses so ALL credit goes to Breanna Akers! Girl you rock! Thanks for being my sounding board and reminding me to go back to basics!
So a visual schedule is just a series of pictures that make up their schedule. It gives them a visual representation of what’s coming and what activity they should currently be focused on. It sets up expectations and helps keep them on track. They can be as simple or detailed as you want to make them. For us, I lean more towards detail in this season we are in because Weston is struggling to stay on task and focused. I also am using a reward system, which should be a desired activity or two, to keep him motivated.
This is his actual schedule. It includes a Morning row, School row, Afternoon row and an eventing row. The horizontal clip will move down as we go from one time of day to another. The vertical clip will move to the right as we complete one task for that time of day and move on to the next one.
This is his chore pack. It has pictures inside of it that help him remember what exactly he should be doing. It clips on his shirt so he always has a visual of the tasks he is doing wherever he is in the house.
The smile strip is a visual behavior chart that we will use during school. He has the opportunity to earn tickets but he can only earn them if he is on blue or green. If he moves to yellow, he has the opportunity to move back to green or blue when he corrects his behavior. Red is reserved for distructive behaviors like tearing up his papers. Hopefully we will rarely have to use that one!
These are his charts to show how to earn tickets and what he can use them for. He has the opportunity to earn five tickets a day for his basic schedule. Each ticket equals 10 minutes of screen time which is his desired activity. He can also choose to earn extra tickets by practicing his awana verses, reading for ten extra minutes or helping with laundry and dishes. Total he can earn an hour and half on his free time activity of choice. If he chooses to read for ten extra minutes he will move that picture over to remind him what he is supposed to be doing. Once complete we will move that earned ticket over to the designated pocket. When he is done earning tickets for the day he can use his tickets for the iPad/Xbox, a movie or a t.v. show. Whichever he chooses, again he moves that picture over. I’ll start the timer and he gets to do his thing for his earned amount of time.
It sounds complicated and like a lot, and it probably is, but it works. Like I said before, we’ve used these in the past and things worked so smoothly. He could clearly see what he was expected to do and there were no surprises in his schedule which minimizes meltdowns! It also helps promote autonomy for him which requires less nagging and reminding from me! Win/win! These types of things are what I call Autism 101 because it’s one of the first things you learn to do after diagnosis. We had been having smooth sailing for a while and so this last episode completely threw me for a loop! I know the next few days of getting back to using our schedule will be rough. He will push the limits and try to see how far he can push his boundaries. As with all things autism, it’s all about consistency. Once he figures out that this is what I expect and that things go more smoothly for him, it will get better! I’m so thankful for these types of tools and friends that remind me I’m not alone in this and remind me to go back to square one when I need to!