Maybe somewhere along the line, someone told you that people with autism learn best from visuals. Maybe you made your child a schedule for their day to help with transitions, or perhaps a therapist made one for you. It has lots of little pictures like this to help your child know what is coming next.
Well first of all, great job taking extra steps to help your child learn! Your child is lucky to have you problem solving and trying to figure out how they think and what will make the most sense to them.
If your schedule is working, you’ll know it because your child will use it. He or she will look at it, use it, and do the things that it says. You’ll have to help out less and less with transitions. If that’s true for you, well, read no further. You’re schedule IS working!
But if your child throws the schedule cards (or the whole schedule), doesn’t look at it, or just doesn’t seem to understand it, there are some other things you can try.
It is true that folks with autism are more visual learners. But this doesn’t mean that these stick figure drawings mean something to everyone. Some kids may do better with a photograph schedule with pictures of them or of the areas of your actual home.
For others, they may actually not be ready to use pictures at all. Many kids with autism are more concrete learners, and learn best with objects.
This means that every time it’s time to do an activity, you’d give your child an object connected with that activity.
Like when it’s time for snack, you’d give them their empty cup and say “snack time.” Once they come to where they’re supposed to be, you fill it with their drink. Or for outdoor time you hand your child his favorite ball and say, “outside time!”
You’ll have to teach him what this means for a while, but after a few tries, as soon as you give him that ball he’ll be heading for the door.
You can also teach a sequence using objects. You can show your child FIRST get dressed (show shirt), THEN play outside (show ball). Give the kid the first object (shirt) and they’re on their way!
Maybe you already do this some and haven’t thought about it! Do you show your child the car keys to say it’s time to go, or hand them their toothbrush when it’s time to brush teeth? Does it help them understand what you’re trying to tell them? If so you’ve got a great start on setting up an object schedule.
If you aren’t sure where to start, ask your speech therapist or OT to help. If you're a therapist wanting to improve your work with kids with autism, check out my trainings to learn how to make better schedules and so much more.
Want more free tips? Check out this infographic on making schedules for kids with autism!