Schedules are a part of everyone’s daily life, whether it’s scheduling meetings or a list of weekend chores. Some people rely on their memory to get them through their day, while others use strategies such as written lists or technology. For children with language delays, challenges are presented when it comes to understanding incoming verbal information, retaining that information in memory, and carrying out the information sequentially. This is especially true when we look at autism. Many children with autism demonstrate difficulty attending to language, which in turn affects their ability to process verbal input. Additionally, they need structure and routines in their lives to be able to function in the absence of interfering behaviors. It is for these reasons that this section will place an emphasis on, but not limited to, learners with autism.
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What is a schedule?
A schedule is a support system which facilitates the comprehension of verbal directions and the completion of tasks. When we use schedules with children on the autism spectrum, we are helping them understand and cope with their day. Children with autism need consistency and they experience anxiety when disruptions in routines occur. Schedules provide them with clear expectations as to what will happen, when it will happen, and how long it will happen for.
When to use a schedule?
Schedules can be used for the following:
- To show the events across an entire day
- To show the events within a specific task
- To assist with Activities of Daily Living (i.e., self-care)
- To incorporate breaks
- To facilitate transitions between activities or locations
- To increase independence
How to make a schedule?
There are a variety of methods for making schedules, depending on the type of schedule you will be implementing. Consider listing the activities from top to bottom or from left to right. Also, schedules work best if they are interactive and manipulable; invest in lots of velcro. Depending on the representational system that works best for a specific child, there are many resources to help with the creation of a schedule. Here are some ideas:
1. Use object representations. You can purchase toy miniature replicas, make your own mini objects out of clay, or use the actual items. Examples include using a toy car to represent playing with a garage, using a fork to represent meal times, and using a travel-size toothpaste to represent tooth brushing.
2. Use actual photographs
3. Use real-life images from Picture This
4. Use symbolic representations from Boardmaker
5. Use a written list