So, I have been blessed with two little boys, and there are not very many dull moments in our house. Between our military lifestyle and both our boys being diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), things can get a bit chaotic. We move and travel quite a bit, and even when we are on the home-front for a while, the days are filled with lots of therapy appointments, playgroups, etc…All of that said, we are “on-the-go” constantly. That can cause anxiety in any kid and for a child with ASD, it can be especially hard. They can have a hard time understanding the passage of time, and while waiting can be difficult for any child, it can be especially excruciating for them. We especially had trouble when we were running more than one errand at a time (library, stopping for lunch, picking up prescriptions, etc…)
My son’s ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) tutor made a suggestion that we have since adopted and use all the time. During some of his sessions, she had an easier time getting him to transition from activity to activity when she provided him a schedule. Because of him being so young (under 5 at the time), and being such a visual learner, she drew the schedule out. She just used a whiteboard and made her own “icons” for the different activities that they would be doing, and wrote the name for the activity out next to it. This goes along with what I have learned as a teacher, in that kids recognize “pictures” as an emerging literacy skill. Think about it, your kid recognized the McDonald’s sign before they could read, right? 🙂
We started using her strategy more around the house and found that it made a big difference in his ability to transition from activity to activity and seemed to lessen his anxiety on days that had more “down” time. We also began using the board when we had lots of running around to do and when we went on road trips. Here are some examples:
This an example of a schedule my husband drew (he draws the cutest pics, I think). The first square is a snack, then potty, getting in the car to go see my parents, a lunch stop at a McDonald’s that just happens to have a huge dinosaur statue out front, then back in the car until we got to my parents’ house where our cat was staying at the time. At each step, we let our son either cross off or erase what we have completed so he can see the progress. When we are going somewhere in the car we call it an “outing.” Going somewhere like my parents’ house (a four hour drive) or farther, we call a “big outing” so he can have an idea of what to expect.
Here is another example, this time for a day when we stayed around the house and hung out:
The first step was to play with dinosaurs upstairs in our playroom (are you catching that dinosaurs make a frequent appearance in our house?), then time for a snack, a movie (we call anything on TV a movie, even a 20 minute episode of something on Netflix), play with chalk outside, then lunch. This schedule is a great example of how to get your kids to do stuff they don’t normally choose to do. Mine would play with dinosaurs all day, but would not normally pick an art or fine motor activity like chalk. By sandwiching that non-preferred activity in between two things they love, TV and lunch, I am more likely to get their cooperation.
I get the whiteboards cheap at places like the dollar store and they work great. There are lots of other adaptations and ways to do schedules with kids, this is just one that has worked for us. I wouldn’t like to go through a day without my planner because I wouldn’t know what to expect. Kids aren’t any different 🙂