Sunday, July 14, 2013

Creating a Visual Schedule for Your Child

My son Liam has Sensory Processing Disorder.  Liam has trouble processing the information his body receives through his senses.  When Liam cannot understand or process the information presented to him, his anxiety takes over and he will have a meltdown.  One area that can cause a meltdown for Liam is not knowing what comes next in his day.  Talking to him about it is now always enough.  He often needs to see it, hear it, touch it all at the same time to really have an understanding.  After discussing the issue with Liam’s special instructor, speech therapist and occupational therapist and doing some research on my own I decided to create a visual schedule for Liam to use at home, similar to what you would see at a preschool or in any classroom, so that Liam had a place to go to and see what his day would bring. 
Liam's schedule

The goal was to give Liam a certain comfort level to reduce his anxiety and give him some control over his day if he was feeling out of control.  At the suggestion of his therapists I wanted to provide a schedule that was not only visual but also involved a gross motor component so that Liam could physically interact with his schedule (again giving him that sense of control and accomplishment).

Having three year old triplet boys (or just having children in general) means our schedule is constantly changing day to day, hour to hour.  We do not have school every day, different therapists come on different days, our weekend plans were always up in the air, etc.  Most visual schedules are a simple strip of Velcro to stick cards in order and Liam could pull them off and move them to a box or move them to a completed column.  My issue with that was if he pulled off the card I would always have to know where the box was (not an easy task in my house) and if he moved them to a completed column he would still see the card and it would be confusing for him. 
Original Visual Schedule-Thanks to

I researched visual schedules (I am always researching) and I found a great idea on Pinterest that I have modified.  The original idea was a mom making a chore chart for her child.  She took a piece of oak tag folded in half with one half cut into flaps.  The picture schedule was taped onto the uncut side and the flaps would cover the completed task with the use of a simple magnet.  Brilliant! 

I loved the idea but I know I needed a bit more flexibility so I decided to make the entire schedule magnetic, including the pictures.  I also included encouraging phrases for Liam to read when he closed the flaps.  I purchased oak tag from a craft store and I found magnetic tape on  I needed a magnet that would be light enough to place on the oak tag and not drag it down, the tape was a perfect solution.  I placed the schedule on the back of our front door which happens to be magnetic (the refrigerator is reserved for the magnetic letters and I would have had a revolt on my hands if I tried to introduce a new item).  I made a million different cards using Microsoft publisher (Microsoft word would work too) using a mixture of clip art, real photos and store logos.  I printed the pictures on photo paper so it would be a heavier stock than just paper, cut them into squares and put the magnetic tape on the back of each one.  It is totally magnetic so it can be attached to any magnetic surface and it can be moved or transported with you if you need it at another location. 

It was a complete success.  The first day I introduced the schedule to Liam I would walk him over to the schedule after we finished each item so that he could close the flap.  By the end of the day after his speech therapist left, Liam walked over to the schedule and closed the flap on his own.  I was so proud of him.  The schedule has been a fantastic addition to our lives.  Every morning when Liam wakes up he consults the schedule and knows what he has to do.  One time he tried to fight me on taking a bath and I told him to look at the schedule so he gave in!  I have even taken it with me on vacation and put it on the mini fridge in the hotel room!  The visual schedule provides Liam with another coping mechanism to deal with his sensory processing issues and has helped to instill confidence in him.