There are countless times when I expect that my child with Autism simply “should know better” by now. Did you know that an expectation is merely a resentment in the waiting? How many times have I repeated, “You KNOW that brushing your teeth always comes next!” or “You KNOW we have to leave by 8, why aren’t your pants on?”
I might as well be the teacher from Charlie Brown, because all my son really hears is, “whaa whaa whaa…” and doesn’t understand why he is in trouble. Again.
How many repetitions does it take for him to understand a routine? Well, how many times have I thrown extra variables into that routine that end up confusing him? An easy way to take the whole struggle and guesswork out of the mix is by using visual schedules.
A visual schedule is a set of pictures and words that communicate a series of activities or the steps to help children understand and manage the daily events in their lives. Ideally, they should communicate clear expectations for the child and decrease the need for constant reminders and many times, unwanted arguments.
At home, the schedule can be created around basic morning, afternoon, and evening tasks such as brushing teeth, getting dressed, eating breakfast, and gathering a backpack for school. They can incorporate any chores assigned to the child, such as empty the garbage or feed the dog.
Posted in a central and convenient place, the schedule can be easily referred to any time the child gets off task and distracted.
For older children, school-specific schedules can be placed into notebooks for easy reference. This would be extremely helpful for transitions and the last segment of the school day.
Issues such as difficulty paying attention, understanding auditory input, processing multiple commands, and the inability to predict and plan within their environment are easily addressed with visual schedules, helping children to adapt and stay on-task at home, in school, or in community gatherings.