Visual aids are a fantastic resource for a child on the autism spectrum and can be used in a number of ways.
This could be anything from PECs to encourage communication, reward charts for the encouragement of appropriate behaviour; schedules (whether for the whole day or just parts of it, such as school, bedtime etc…) Social stories to help prepare for change and many others.
We have used visual aids for the last few years and I discovered the true beauty of them, back when I went on the ‘Early bird plus’ parenting course for parents of children with autism & aspergers syndrome, which was ran by NAS and our local authority, a good three years ago! At first I spent a small fortune kiting us out with a load of tools, from visual cards for games to schedules and social stories. Of course when you’re a mother to a newly diagnosis child, you spend a small fortune on these things just doing what you think is right! Well, Like many I learnt the hard way, and I’ll never fork out big bucks for something that can be easily made in the comfort of your own home (Well, unless someone presents me with a well made product that’s fairly priced and sold by someone who isn’t just looking to make a quick buck from my child’s diagnosis, that is)!
We don’t use an all day schedule for Little man, though we used to, however, our life is a tad crazy at times and it becomes a little hard to follow. You see, I don’t want Little man becoming to reliant on routine, yes, routine is good and he loves it, but life cannot always be this simple and sometimes a little thing called “Life” gets in the way. Nonetheless he has one at school and also follows one to help him with his bedtime routine.
HOW IT WORKS
Little man has a chart that has a small pocket that holds a number of small cards each displaying its own symbol or image!
What’s great is, by designing your own you can completely customise it to fit around your own child’s routine (or in most bedtime cases, desired routine)! Here’s an example… Your child maybe the type of child who settles only after a story, may take medication and also have a small bath an hour before bed. You would therefore make cards that resemble these actions, plus any additional cards that symbolise other areas of the routine like… a tooth-brush, pyjamas, warm drink, toilet, kisses, lights and bed. This doesn’t even need to be in the form of pictures, your child may even prefer words! You may start with pictures and as they grow change over to text, whatever works best for you, that’s the beauty of it.
Another great aspect to the whole concept of schedules is that they work for children with and without autism. This means your child wont feel that its anything out the ordinary, especially if schedules are being used both in the home and educational setting. Children with Aspergers Syndrome especially, are quite aware of their differences and can sometimes get downhearted, I try my best not make Little man feel singled out, as-well as trying to avoid his sister feeling left out, if you know what I mean? That’s why I have ensured that both the children have a bedtime schedule as well as a chart to display their own set of targets to ensure they keep all of their pocket-money or even add to it (quite a new thing, it has its up and down weeks) this way it’s a win-win scenario as no one feels singled or left out!
HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN SCHEDULE
I wouldn’t mind getting me own brand of schedule out there and onto the market! One that’s simple yet fun, easy to follow and doesn’t leave you feeling poor! I’m forever having ideas for schedules running away in my head, maybe because I’m always thinking of ways to make life that Little bit simpler for both little man and the family as a whole. However, life offers little time, so for now… how about I show you a dead simple way to make a bedtime schedule with nothing other than a few bits and bobs from your craft box?
WHAT YOU WILL NEED
3/4 sheets of paper or card
Velcro Dots (available from all major craft shops)
laminating sheets & laminator
PC and printer (though not essential)
brightly coloured pens
ruler (if not using a PC)
small piece of sticky tap
Glue Dots (Optional) can use a glue stick
some stickers for decoration (optional)
Step one: Decide which area of your child’s life will benefit most from a structured routine, then make a list of the symbols or words that make up your routine (bed, tooth-brush etc.-etc). Next you need to make the base for your main chart. You can download and print templates from an array of sites that offer free downloadable resources such as symbols, I will include some resources at the end of this post. Otherwise if you fancy getting really creative simply use a ruler to make your own (I made my own using text edit in my mac). Once you have finished printing or drawing your chart, you may wish to cut it down to size, depending on how many symbols you have to attach. We used A4 paper so cut it in half. If you have lots of symbols, keep it at A4 size.
Step two: Once you have done the above, put it to one side, its time to make your cards! These are quite small and you can make these in a number of ways…
a) Download from one of the sites given in the resource at the end of this post or check out free clip art on google! Once you have found what you want, you can then print them out.
b) Use your ruler to mark out the number of square boxes required to make up all the symbols or words in your routine (just count the number of items in your list). We made our boxes 3 by 3 cms but you could make yours bigger or smaller if desired! (If using text as opposed to symbols you may wish to make these slightly larger, you could use rectangles over squares) just make sure there is enough space to house them all on your chart.
c) If you are using instruction ‘B’ over that of ‘A’ you will then need to add the images or words to your cards! If you fancy doing a bit of a freestyling, then great… draw away, otherwise look in magazines or uses the google images ect, make some cuttings and get sticking, attaching your cuttings to the card templates. If using words, write these in nice bold lettering, or even add some small text above your symbols as I’ve done .
Step three: Now take a laminating sheet and laminate the paper containing your card templates. Note you should not have cut out your cards as yet, all should be on the same sheet of paper regardless whether you downloaded them (Step two [A]) or made them by hand (step two [b]c]).
Step four: Once laminated, cut each of your cards out and leave to one side.
Step five: Next bring forward your base chart and before laminating, you can decorate if you wish, using the brightly coloured pen (important don’t add stickers just yet).
Step six: Once decorated, laminate your chart.
Step seven: Take your Velcro dots and your glue dots (a glue stick works fine also) and glue the rough side of the velcro dot to your chart, with the other smoother side to your card. Do this for every card in your routine, these can then be attached to the Velcro on your chart.
Step eight : With a small piece of paper fold it in half and use the tape to stick down the sides and end. Apply a Velcro dot to the back and the other side to your chart , then use stickers or whatever else you fancy to decorate. This will be your envelope to store your symbol cards when not in use.
Step nine: Here’s the fun part ! Its time to decorate your chart by applying the stickers to the base chart. These can be easily removed and wont damage the chart due to its laminate casing. This will allow you to apply new stickers whenever you like, completely revamping the whole chart meaning it can therefore grow with your child and his/her changing interests.
You just made your very own visual aid.
Click on any of the links listed to uncover download resources to help you create your schedule.
- How to approach 5 of the most common difficulties that occur for child on the autism spectrum (aspergersinfo.wordpress.com)
- Cost-free effective ways to help your child on the spectrum (aspergersinfo.wordpress.com)
- Do You Use Visual Schedules? (appliedbehavioralstrategies.wordpress.com)
- Do your homework! (aspergersinfo.wordpress.com)
- Toys for the sensory seeker (aspergersinfo.wordpress.com)
- Tracey Marks, M.D.: How To Get Kids On A Back-To-School Sleep Schedule (huffingtonpost.com)