Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year and Visual Schedules

     First off, Happy New Year! Welcome to 2012. I know I am committed to engaging in positive behaviors and putting the punishment on all of those suboptimal ones!

     If it has been recommended to you that your child be using a visual schedule in the home to help with transitions or anxiety levels, commit to using it consistently starting that first day back at school. As many of us know, our learners make leaps and bounds when they have structure and predictable things going on in their lives.

     If you're just beginning to get a schedule set up and put in place, think about a few things:

     A) How much notice does my child need that they are going into a different activity? Can it be a schedule of the day, or by the minute, using timers? In that same thought, how much notice can my child handle without becoming too overanxious about the day?;

     B) What type of visuals work best for my child? In an inclusion setting, the best would be to have a schedule of the child's day, typed out by period (maybe with the times included), and let it be that. But, for our learners who are young and cannot read, or even older and struggle with reading, icons and symbols may be the answer. Having them on a board, where they can take off what they finished, and put on what's next. Or a "First --> Then," schedule system. The main point being, pick a schedule that is respectful to where the learner is at, but also dignified;

     C) How is this schedule going to be referenced? Is it something they will carry around all day, or stay at their desk? If it's going to move with them, there needs to be a reasonable way of carrying it. I've seen binders, flip charts that fit into pockets, or, as noted above, a simple piece of paper folded over and carried around. Let's keep in mind that the thing may need to be transported;

     D) If you've tried visual schedules with your child in the past, and they've been highly unsuccessful, you may consider making modifications by shortening the schedule's intervals (ie. if it was an all day schedule, making it a 3 period schedule, and at the end of the third period, time is taken to set it up for the following 3 periods), customizing/personalizing it (ie. with pictures of their favorite TV character, or of them), and being sure to reinforce every appropriate use of the schedule, even if not always accurate in the beginning. If your learner doesn't want to carry it, then carry it for them to the next class, they then need to carry it back to class. Shape up the appropriate behavior of being responsible for and carrying the schedule until they do it on their own.

     Visual schedules can help ease a lot of anxieties and help to proactively skirt negative behaviors that may be resulting from unknowns in schedules (even if they do it everyday!). There are a million ways to make them, and they can save you a lot of grief.

     Again, enjoy your 2012 -- enjoy your families and each other, and enjoy learning and thriving.

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