A Less Serious Post About a Seriously Powerful Tool: The Daily Schedule

In my last post, I gave an example of using a schedule to support learning and success in an activity. You might also find it extremely helpful to create a schedule for the day. Daily schedules give you and your child an opportunity to not only set expectations, but to highlight any activities that might be new or different. If you need help creating a daily schedule for your child, talk to your child’s teacher or speech pathologist—or email me; I’m happy to help too!

Rather than printing a set schedule, it might also be helpful to use a Velcro strip with individual picture symbol squares, which you can then move around, and add/remove. Here’s an example of how a Velcro picture schedule using Boardmaker might look if you were to post it on a wall or door:

Transactional Supports 016 copy

The same concept would apply to if you were to shrink everything and put it in a notebook or on a folder. In choosing your icons for your picture schedule, keep your child’s core vocabulary and best practice for choosing picture symbols in mind.

While you might find it beneficial (depending on your child) to have a posted daily schedule in your home for any average day, “different days” such as holidays or special events, can be particularly challenging. Therefore, creating a visual schedule for the day that you can share with your child is particularly important.

Create a Schedule for a Different Day

Since Easter just happened and it’s fresh on my mind, here’s how the schedule for my family’s “different day” was planned:

Easter Day Schedule

Great plan, right? But here’s how it really went (forgive the lack of icons; this is for parent consumption only):

Egg Hunt (“look for Easter eggs”)
Get Dressed
Doc (our dog) in Car (…which was a last minute decision)
Go to Nana and Grandad’s House
Doc wait at Nana & Grandad’s House
Go to bluebonnet field
Take Bluebonnet pictures (perhaps I should’ve used “smile for camera” for my kids, as I did in the schedule above)
Go to Nana & Grandad’s House
Dad step in Doc’s dog poop on Nana & Grandad’s Floor
Clean up dog poop
Clean up Dad’s shoe
Mommy and Daddy take a break
Egg Hunt (“look for Easter eggs”)
…and so on and so forth.

And for all that, here’s the bluebonnet picture we got:

Bad bluebonnet pic

And Daddy’s shoe will never be the same.

Things don’t always go as planned. So, it will be very important to have your “different” symbol with you, to use Velcro when you can so you can note the changes in plan…and also to take lots of deep breaths.

Alternate Preferred and Non-Preferred Activities

In building a daily schedule, experience backed by research has shown that alternating your child’s preferred activities (happy things) and non-preferred activities (not so happy things) will help to keep his arousal and stress level (fancy term: emotional regulation) in check. When your child is emotionally regulated, he is comfortable in his own skin and is more able to listen, learn and participate. I’ll talk more about emotional regulation in future posts. Meanwhile, though, ask your occupational therapist about strategies that might help keep your child emotionally regulated.

Take Pictures

And now, here’s your homework—if you are having a “different day” or special activity, take pictures of moments or activities that will be particularly memorable to you or your child. On a holiday, take pictures of some key elements that you want to be able to “remember” with your child later. (I skipped taking pictures of the dog poop incident on Easter—feel free to edit your memories.) I have a fun family project planned for you!


**Velcro schedule photo from Facilitating Early Social Communication: From Theory to Practice, by Pamela Rollins, MS, CCC/SLP, Ed.D.  Her book further explains the theory behind these strategies as well.  Also, check out More than Words by Fern Sussman, for more functional ideas on using picture symbols in the home.

The strategy of utilizing visual symbols to support comprehension is also consistent with the SCERTS Model (Prizant, Wetherby, Rubin & Laurent, 2007).  SCERTS stands for Social Communication, Emotional Regulation, and Transactional Supports.  Many of the theories and tools that I discuss in these blogs are rooted in the SCERTS model.

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