Monday, 16 July 2012
- Always look at the recipe when cooking?
- Always need to write a grocery list, or you'll forget something?
- Write daily To Do lists or checklists?
- Have Post It notes stuck on walls all over your house?
- Leave things by the front door so you don't forget them in the morning?
- Learn better by doing it rather than hearing about it?
- Need quiet to study or complete a work project?
- Love charts or diagrams? Love highlighting, underlining, or color coding?
- Find that people ask your help with organizing or planning?
- Have to use notes or index cards if you are going to speak in front of people?
- Remember how to spell a word by closing your eyes and visualizing the word?
- Know when someone has moved one thing on your desk?
If you answered yes to most of those questions, then congratulations you are a visual learner!
So what did you win? Well, nothing. Except a future filled with making lists.
I'm definitely a visual learner so I can relate to my kiddos who often need visual supports to feel calm and in control of their environment. I write To Do lists, and then I write checklists for completing my To Do lists (not kidding).
I understand how stressful and chaotic it can feel when organization and order aren't embedded in my environment. If you are still wondering if you are a visual learner or not let me give you a scenario to test it:
You get a promotion at work and your first assignment is to hold a staff training meeting where you will explain all of your new ideas and suggestions to about 25 people. You spend all weekend preparing what you will say and making notes to yourself. Monday morning rolls around, you walk into your office, hang up your coat, and realize you left all of your wonderful, brilliant index cards sitting at home on your kitchen table. There isn't time for you to drive back home, so you'll have to wing it.
If your heart is pounding and your palms are sweaty just thinking about that scenario, then you are definitely someone who needs visual supports. That stress reaction you just felt? That's how these kiddos with Autism feel everyday when they have to navigate through an entire day where people expect them to know what to do, when to do it, when to stop doing it, and what to do next.
A visual schedule is a visual representation of a sequence or activity. Individuals with Autism tend to be visual, concrete learners who benefit greatly from visual schedules. Due to impairments in focus, rote memory, and generalization (poor generalization skills means these children usually need to be told over and over what to do next), children with Autism often have difficulty adjusting to their environment. Visual schedules also help provide routine, organization, andstructure
, which many children with Autism crave. If the child has a visual schedule to look at each day--even if the schedule changes--then it helps lower the child's anxiety about what is coming up next.
How do you know if your child, student, or client could benefit from a visual schedule? Here are a few red flags:
- The child asks for items or activities over and over again ("I want outside....I want outside.....I want outside")
- The child always needs prompts to transition, to start an activity, or to stop an activity
- The child has regular tantrums at specific times of day, such as they tantrum everyday when its Circle Time
- The child completes steps out of order or skips steps
- The child has difficulty waiting to do an activity, such as waiting for their reinforcer at the therapy table
- You repeatedly have to state a demand more than 3 times
- The child forgets things frequently
- The child completes very few activities independently
If you answered yes to most of those questions, then you are dealing with a child who could absolutely use some visual supports. Visual supports are more than just visual schedules. They could include transition signs, labels, visual directions, reminders, conversation cues, reinforcement token boards, checklists, "First/Then" cards, waiting prompts, etc.
Visual schedules do not have to be purchased from a specialty store or Autism website. They are very easy to make and affordable. I would suggest at a minimum creating a daily schedule for both home and school, and if the child is school-age a separate morning routine schedule.
I meet SO many parents who have consistent difficulties with the morning routine: getting their child out of bed, dressed, fed, and off to school. The morning is usually a stressful, crazed, loud, frustrating part of the parents day. All of that can be changed by creating a visual representation of what the ideal routine looks like, and then teaching the child to consistently follow the routine. Visual supports help bring order to chaos.Visual schedules are supposed to be individualized to the specific child, so if you have a specific question about creating a visual schedule for your child, client, or student, feel free to leave a comment below.
**Quick Tip: Autism Speaks has a FREE Visual Supports Tool Kit on their website that is full of helpful information about how to create visual schedules.