The visual schedule is the single most important thing I can tell anyone about ever.

Let me repeat that. The visual schedule is the single most important thing I can tell anyone about ever. We have been using them in school and in various therapy sessions since Raymond was 3. However, we have always put off doing it at home for various excuses, like “its too hard to get started” or “I don’t know how we can implement it.”

We finally managed to implement it this summer and it has been amazing. Now that Raymond has a reference to how his day will go he is more prepared for changes and less difficult with transitions. Even unpleasant things are easier because he knows they will end. How does he know? He sees that there are other activities after the difficult stuff!

You may be wondering “What is a visual schedule?”  It is a series of pictures that show upcoming activities or events. The one at the top of the page is our typical morning routine.  I have another one right below that has a couple sample activities.

Step 1. Make a list of all the activities you need to schedule. For example, we have OT, speech, piano lessons, school and vision therapy. Consequently we have cards for all those activities.   In ours we also have some rewards, like playing the Wii and going to Grandma and Grandpa’s house.  We also have a list of sensory exercises that we do with Raymond to keep him on his sensory diet. Finally we have a list of “field trips” which are learning experiences we leave the house to do.

The list is really the hardest part IMO, and it will continue to grow as you use the schedule. Don’t think that just because  you have a long list now you won’t forget something. You probably will. That doesn’t matter though. Just getting started is the key. Adding on is easy.

Next you will need to find pictures for your list. We went crazy a few years back and bought Boardmaker. Boardmaker is software that schools and other institutions use for PECS, which is the Picture Exchange Communication System.  Mayer-Johnson makes the Boardmaker software and it runs about $330 if you get the bare bones version. I don’t think its worth the money for just creating visual schedules. Don’t get me wrong, its great software and the PECS are universal. However, its tough to get $300 worth of use out of one piece of software with one kid.

You can also use google image search. Just go to google search, type in a search term and click the image button in the upper left corner.  I will caution you that you will have to edit these images to fit your size in most cases. If you don’t have picture editing software already you can edit images free on sites like Picnik or you can download free photo editing software from Picasa.  Make sure you only use photos and pictures with the “creative commons” license. That means it is free and copyright approved for personal, not for profit use.

Okay, so you have your list and you have all your pictures ready to go. What’s next?  I’ll be posting that in part 2, so read on!