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Picture Schedules and Our Family

How Creating Visuals Saved Our Lives

Source: pixabay.com

I used to dread telling my son to do anything that required more than one or two step directions. Because he is autistic, has severe ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder, and a bunch of other acronyms, anything beyond a single direction is a fruitless effort.

For kids with ASD or ADHD (or any other cognitive difference, for that matter), giving general instructions is likely too overwhelming for them. They may not know how to start or what to do next. I know that in my son’s case, I have to be VERY specific. For instance, when I'm done folding the laundry, I say, “take your laundry into your room.” The putting it away is implied. He doesn't catch the implication. For other 10 year olds, they might also not understand that they’re supposed to also put the clothes away, but will likely catch on after the next few times they're told to bring it to their room. This has been the practice in our house for as long as he could carry a pile of laundry the 8 feet to his room. Each and every time i need to tell him “Take your laundry to your room AND put it away, away”. (I was saying just one away and he was moving the clothes from the floor to the top of his bureau) I have to be specific EVERY SINGLE TIME.

Tension was created over almost every life skill. I remember sitting there crying because I had to prompt almost each and every step of his day in order to maintain any semblance of order to our life. When he started preschool, he was using visual prompts to help him stay on task and know what to expect at the next transition. His teachers made us a hand washing picture schedule for at home and it changed our life. Before we had it hanging by the sink, hand washing would take an average of 6-8 minutes. He’d play in the water and the soap or he’d forget that he was washing his hands. The schedule helped him remember the hand washing steps.

Picture schedules have proven to be so useful for communication disorders. Once I had one for hand washing, I wanted one to help with everything. Boardmaker, which is available to educators through schools IF the district has a subscription, is very expensive to have on your home computer. So, I set out on an online search to find ANYTHING that could help me make schedules of the daily routines. If i didn't have to stand over my son and prompt him every moment, he'd learn independence; or at least that was my hope.

I found a wonderful website that allow you to create templates of visual supports and then you can either print or save as a PDF file. It is found at connectability.ca. It is a website dedicated to learning and support for people who have an intellectual disability and their families. You can use picture symbols from their library or find your own images and upload them in to the library for others to use. This website has literally saved our family. The hours of work I’ve put into creating schedules has been worth is as it has saved us hours of tears and meltdowns.

I made a schedule for getting dressed, one for brushing teeth. A “First... Then…” for homework expectations. For example: first math sheet, then iPad. These schedules clearly outline the expectations for each and every step of the activity and foster independence.

I started this when my son was 5 years old. He is now 10 years old and is less dependent upon the visual prompts and relies on verbal prompts more these days. This is what you want when trying to gain independence in an activity. The schedules still hang in their respective places in our home, but as a reference. Without ever finding a way to create my own schedules for our home life, I feel like we would have never been able to get past me physically helping my son perform the daily tasks. I recommend this site as one of the best resources I’ve come across for helping us deal with communication and processing differences. 

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