Sunday, March 27, 2016

Don’t Take Away the Schedule

Laurie, Kathy, and I have consulted with many educators who are thrilled that their students with ASD learn to use their individual schedules. Yet, on subsequent classroom visits, we may not see the schedules being used. When asked why, the teachers often tell us their students now remember what to do without the visual cues. They feel this is a big step forward in the pupils’ learning. 

Memorizing their individualized daily schedules that use cues to depict the daily activities and the sequence is certainly evidence of their excellent memory. Discontinuing the students' using schedules, however, removes this essential visual support. 

Learning to use and rely on a schedule is important beyond the current classroom and its daily activities. Schedules used throughout the years and across environments enable folks with ASD to become independent and more flexible. 

They can look to their schedules for valuable information in new settings, for example. This reliance on the schedule makes the transition to the new setting less anxiety-inducing.

By having a schedule, the students know what to do without having to be told. They can function independently without needing constant supervision or an authority figure nearby. 

We encourage teachers and parents to make changes to the schedules as their children progress (from part-day to full-day; from objects to writing lists, for instances) but never to fade out this essential support. Don’t we all use a planner or phone to let us know where we are to go!

Over time changes to schedules may occur.

Objects-First/Then             to               Pictures-First/Then

Pictures plus words may progress to words alone with a picture dictionary as a reference to the written words; the length of the schedule changes according to the needs of each individual student

Students with ASD like for routines to stay the same. If they do not rely on an ever-changing schedule and rely instead on their memory of what should happen because it happened that way yesterday, anxiety and other behavioral issues become commonplace. 

Using schedules can help students accept changes and become more flexible. Here students are taught that a star or a question mark indicates something different is going to occur.  

Always remember it is not as important how quickly a student changes from one type of schedule to another but rather how independently he/she uses that schedule. 

Please read this wonderful article by a parent whose work with her son convinced her how invaluable schedules were for him. The Spectrum, Why Visual Schedules Matter by Nancy Popkin (pages 7-8)
Visit our website to see our new Readymade Visual Schedules which will save caregivers hours of work so that they may focus on teaching other skills!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

March 2016 Task of the Month

Tasks are designed to teach academic skills at our students’ individual levels. We like to combine teaching these skills with themes so the children also learn more about their culture and the world. In most cultures, holidays are an important part. Global learning is important to all students.

As many typical programs for young children do, we often incorporate symbols of holidays within our tasks.

We design varying tasks around these themes that are at different skill levels, so that every one of our students can participate.

In March, people in the USA celebrate the Irish and Irish American culture with St. Patrick’s Day festivities. Shamrocks, wearing-of-the green, and leprechauns are symbols associated with this holiday.

In this task, students remove one of the affixed shamrock coins from the box using a pincer grasp and place it into the slit cut in the plastic lid on the rainbow container. They must rotate their wrists to make the coins fit.

This activity, consistent with how we design tasks, lets students keep track of their progress. They can discern when they are finished because all the coins are off the box and in the container.