I have mentioned in previous posts that my wee man, Neil, has ASD (autistic spectrum disorder) We are currently awaiting official diagnosis, and the process is very long, but we’ve pretty much been told by the professionals that we have seen so far that it’s a clear case. He would be on the high functioning end of the spectrum, but still struggles a lot with some day to day activities.
Children with ASD can find the world around them very confusing, and like to have routine to their life so they know what’s going to happen every day. While our days were never rigidly structured, we still used to do roughly the same things every day, and found that days where we had to do something different would really upset Neil. He also has trouble transitioning between activities, especially when the activity that is coming next is something unplanned.
I did a little bit of research online and everyone seemed to suggest creating a visual schedule. Visuals schedules help children to see what is going to happen now, next, and for the rest of the day, cutting down any anxiety about the unknown. It also allows you to prepare for a deviation in routine.
We like to involve Neil in any of the supports we make for him, so we talked about some designs. I initially suggested a ‘snake schedule’ but he wasn’t keen on this idea. He told me that in his classroom they had a train above the board telling them what activities they would be doing that day, a ‘time train’, and could we make it the same at home. My boy’s definitely not one for change!
We looked online for some printable train carriage pictures. The best we found were here.
Once printed we coloured them in with some of the kids crayons. We had planned on getting Neil to help with this part, but he took no interest in it at all, he’s not really big on arty stuff. The colouring part took ages, it may have been quicker to add colour on the computer before printing.
We printed out some blank clock faces, and then set about printing out activities. We started out by making a list of all day to day activities, such as getting dressed, brushing teeth, meals, homework etc. We also added in some less frequent activities such as shopping trips.
Neil sat down at the computer with his dad and picked pictures for each activity. Once everything was printed we ‘laminated’ it all, but we’re not fancy and don’t actually have a laminator so we used self adhesive book covering film from the pound shop. We then added a little bit of velcro to each carriage and to the back of each activity picture, to allow for activities to be moved around the train.
We used blutac to stick each piece to the wall in the hallway.
This is how it turned out.
The clocks allow us to give Neil a specific time of day for each activity, and because they are laminated we can use a dry wipe marker so we can change times as and when we need to.
Each morning we go out together and let Neil look at the activites and put them on the wall. This really helps him to feel like he has planned his day, and has taken away a lot of the anxiety about what will happen next.
In the past, shopping trips were awful because Neil would get very anxious about having to go somewhere he wasn’t expecting. Now, if we have somewhere to go, or something unusual to do, we just let him put that particular activity on to the train and he’s happy enough to take part.
A lot of the visual schedules I found online were generic, just a line of activities, but we really tried to make it fun and get Neil involved in every aspect of the process. His non asd sister also really enjoys using the schedule.
It does take a little bit of work but it’s definitely worth it!