For many parents the words “visual schedule” spark images of printed picture icons, heavy-duty Velcro, costly lamination, and a level of bright creativity only a third grade teacher can expect to pull off successfully.
For some children this type of schedule is ideal. It may even be the perfect fit while at school or other activities outside of home. For some therapists this type of schedule may be considered the ideal at-home schedule as well. However, the folks at Woodallkids Outreach have found that this vision often does not match the reality of a home environment.
They have also found that this is perfectly fine!
While any at-home visual schedule should be organized, readable, show completion, and prepare children for a written schedule, it is important to note that a schedule on a piece of paper with hand written instructions and a simple reinforcement system, such as check marks or happy faces, can be just as effective for some children as that “ideal” polished schedule of perfection.
Below is an example of how one Woodallkids Outreach family incorporates this principle into their morning routine with a list of things we just love about this at-home visual schedule.
1. It does not require any expensive materials or programs.
2. Each day Lukey gets to choose the colored markers his sister uses to decorate the schedule and which set of stickers he wants to use as check marks – encouraging ownership throughout the day.
3. His sister’s help not only encourages their daily interaction, but also allows his sister to be an important part of an activity that is inevitably a large focus of the day for the entire family.
4. By involving his sibling, Mom has provided a time every day that promises an opportunity for his sister to receive praise for her contributions (writing skills, reading ability, creativity) and support of her brother.
5. It is easily adjustable so that when plans change, rather than only providing a verbal explanation, Mom can simply draw a line through “swimming” and write down “Shopping with Grandma” instead.
While this type of schedule may not be ideal for every child, it is important to realize that any child’s schedule can be modified to fit the needs of both the child and the family regardless of how it is assembled. One of the most important goals of the Woodallkids Outreach Program is to help your family creatively incorporate behavioral principles not only throughout your day, but also with the involvement of your entire family, and incorporating an individualized visual schedule is often a great place to start.
Assistant Director of Outreach
Brent Woodall Foundation