Children with autism thrive on consistency. Sameness can help them focus on the things that matter most. Consistency and structure offer special needs children the prospect of feeling comfortable with events in their day.
“Mrs. Robbins!” Elliot called out as he ran into the classroom first thing Monday morning. “You didn’t change the date on the board!”
“Would you like to change it for me, Elliot?” I asked.
“Sure!” he said.
Elliot checked the date every morning when he arrived at school. Then he checked the daily schedule to make sure there were no unexpected changes. When he knew his day promised to hold no surprises, Elliot was content and able to start his work. Not only was Elliot’s anxiety relieved by knowing what came next throughout the day, the rest of the students also benefited by knowing what to expect.
What if I would have answered Elliot negatively?
“Go sit down and start your work, Elliot.”
“But can I change the date first, Mrs. Robbins?”
“I’ll get to it in a minute. Just sit down and start your work!”
Because Elliot would be confused about my response, he would have been preoccupied with the wrong date staring at him and been unable to concentrate on his work. As the teacher, I would have been frustrated that Elliot wouldn’t just sit down and get started on his work like I asked him to. Chances are, even after I changed the date, Elliot would still have been thinking about it.
Children with autism need consistency in their daily lives. Understanding and working with their need instead of ignoring or pushing against it will result in better cooperation from the student and less frustration for all.
Benefits of a Classroom Visual Schedule
- Helps clarify the sequence of the day.
- Works well in inclusion classrooms. Children with autism and their typical peers can both benefit from their use.
- Helps prepare students for transition between activities.
- Helps children with ASD (autism) focus on relevant matters.
- Increases independence.
- Can be used outside the classroom such as at home, in church, or in therapy sessions.
- Lessens anxiety levels of children with autism which results in fewer breakdowns.
Helpful notes about Classroom Visual Schedules
- Keep the daily schedule posted in the same place in the classroom, home or office.
- Include specific times of day. Include pictures of the corresponding times on a clock if needed.
- Schedules can range from simple to complex depending on the needs of the students.
- Alert autistic children to any changes in the daily routine. When a substitute teacher is going to teach for me, I talk to my students with special needs about it the day before, if possible. They find it more acceptable than when they don’t know ahead of time that I’m going to be gone.
Have you ever had a student walk into your classroom and seem agitated but he couldn’t tell you why? What’s your experience? Any comments on this post? Write them in the comment box and Let’s Talk about Autism!
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