I shared this image of Dylan’s visual board on my instatories and I got a lot of questions about how I made it and how it works. So I thought I would put all the info into a blog post for you guys. This visual board was super quick and easy to do and the best thing is you can personalize it to suit your child’s daily activities and sports etc.
Firstly why? Children with Autism may become anxious or can have meltdowns when there is a change in their daily schedule, or when they are expected to go, or to do something new. It is easy to fall into a set routine to avoid meltdowns, believe me I know. The schedule board is a great visual for the child to follow what the plan is for the day. I like to keep the core of the daily routine such as going to school, meal times and Dylan’s bedtime routine the same every day. But it is also so important for me to not let Dylan get too stuck in a routine, because as soon as there is the smallest change he won’t be able to cope. There are things that of course will change and some of these daily occurrences are simple out of my control. As Dylan gets older he will need to learn to cope with change. With the visual board I never keep two days the same, every day will be different.
Firstly I fill the board with his core routine ( School, meal times and bed time etc) but then I will also add one or two activities to the day. Such as going out on his bike, walking our dog, Polly or going swimming etc
We begin our schedule after school as our morning routine runs smooth(ish) now, But you can pick a time in the day that your child is having trouble with and break it down for them using images. For eg if bedtime is hard to get into a routine you can make a schedule for that. Just simple make images that represent your child’s routine for eg: images for – Pajamas – wash face + hands – Brush teeth – bedtime story – Sleep.
It helps when Dylan can see exactly a start and finish to a schedule. So no matter what time of the day you want to schedule, break it down and give it a start and finish.
What you need
- A white board. Any white board will do. I picked this up in Tesco. The size gives me enough space to fit all the images and enough to write under them too.
- Whiteboard pen. I got this with the white board.
- Images. I googled different activities – eating, school, swimming, bike etc and printed them out. When Dylan was younger, he could not grasp generic images like this. So if your child is having trouble relating to generic images you can take photos of your child doing the activities. Also take pictures of their actual school, your local supermarket, the playground by your house etc.
- A laminator. You will need an laminator to cover and protect all the images. Trust me on this one. As soon as an image appears on the board for an activity they are not so fond of, ( For Dylan this would be a haircut) He will try rip it up. ( Dylan thinks if the image does not exist anymore then surely the activity doesn’t either, right?) Having them laminated just protects the images and saves you from reprinting, reprinting and reprinting you get the picture.
- Velcro tape. Get the velcro tape that is sticky on one side. Simple cut strips and stick on to your board. Then place a piece of velcro on the back of each image.
How it works
For Dylan it works best if I do the schedule day by day as to not overwhelm him. Each night when he is gone to bed, I will prepare his board for the next day. Dylan’s communication is limited so the visual board is a great way to communicate with him. I know Dylan likes the concept behind it, because every morning it is the first the thing he checks out when he gets up. When he sees an activity that he isn’t fond it, (IE the haircut image for an example) He won’t be happy to see it, but at least he knows that it is happening today and it’s not going to come as a surprise to him when we turn up in the barbers.
Preparation is key.
- If its on the board it HAS to happen. Dylan might not want to get his haircut and might throw a tantrum, but if I say I will leave the haircut for another day – In return Dylan will think “ I’ll just throw a tatrum whenever I don’t want to do an activity that is on the board and it can be easily taken off the board.’’ Stick at it – it will become easier. It can be hard especially introducing new activities, but even if means doing the new activity for a very short time just make sure it is done before taking the image off the board.
- Write the name of the activity under each image along with the day of the week on top of the board. This allows Dylan to get used to seeing the word that goes with that image etc.
- Dylan loves taking each image off the board once completed and rubbing out the words. It allows him to see that the activity is finished.
- Print a ‘Surprise’ image that may cover an activity you are not prepared for. For eg you decide to go to the zoo which isn’t a daily activity so you may not have had an image for it. Having a generic image that may cover a few things in the case of an ‘emergency’ is handy to have.
- Our visual board gives Dylan a sense of structure to his day, which Dylan likes. He likes being in a structured environment with routine. This allows him to not feel anxious for the day ahead and in return can help with meltdowns. You don’t want the board to only represent activities they don’t like. So be sure to fill it with activities that your child likes too. Dylan loves going to the cinema and swimming etc. I try my best to always have one activity Dylan really likes each day on the board. ( Be sure to always put the favorite activity after the one they are not so fond of so it can act like a reward.) 😉
I hope you found this helpful. I would love to hear any tips that you guys do that helps with your child’s daily schedule. Thanks so much for stopping by.