Having spent most of my teaching career working with children who have behavioural difficulties caused by their anxieties, and the last nine years parenting a very special young lady who has a very definite preference for routine, schedules have become one of my most used tools in reducing the number of meltdowns that occur; both in my classroom and in my home.
So What Is A Schedule?
A schedule is a list, which can be either written, pictorial or both, which provides a child with a structure either within an activity or for their whole day.
Does A Schedule Need To Stay Fixed Throughout The Day?
Absolutely not. The beauty of schedules is a change in your day is much less likely to cause upset because a child can immediately see that although one activity has changed the rest of their day remains the same.
Without a schedule, children who struggle with change, often panic even if a small change is made to their day. Their immediate assumption is that if one change is made, the rest of their day is in jeopardy. This can mean that often a very small change can spark a meltdown, whereas if the change is visually seen on the schedule with the remaining events staying the same, their reactions are often more in proportion.
Why Are Schedules Helpful?
Schedules help to make life more predictable, because life is more predictable children are often calmer. Because they are feeling calmer, they are less likely to overreact to other situations, which makes meltdowns less likely.
Is A Written Schedule Or A Pictorial One Best?
Only you can decide that, there is no right or wrong answer. To a large extent it will depend on which medium you feel your child will respond best to, and which you think they will be most comfortable using.
Can Children Help To Make Schedules?
Absolutely, schedules can be as professional or as homemade as you want to make them. They can take the form of a list on an electronic device, or be handwritten on a piece of paper. There are no hard and fast rules about how they should look.
Are There Any Other Rules?
Just one. Whatever is written on the schedule must be followed. Changes can be made, as has been discussed, but they must be made on the schedule as well as in life so that children can see visually what is happening?
Will This Work For All Children?
No, I’m a firm believer in the fact that nothing works for everyone. However, it’s another tool to add to your armoury, something else to try out. Who knows, you might just find it makes a difference.
If you do want to learn more you might find our autism section a useful place to start. It’s full of different strategies to try out.
Our online autism courses are also a great place to learn more.
Or why not join our private Facebook Group, which brings parents and teachers of children on the spectrum together to discuss strategies to help at home and at school.
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And of course if I can be of any help then please just shout (or drop me an email).