We’ve been back in school for one week and I’m already dreading the morning crunch. My daughter has no problem waking up at 6am on weekends, but Monday morning rolls around and I am shaking her awake at 7:30. Things go downhill from there; she drags her feet with every morning activity, creating a ton of stress for everyone involved.
Our biggest issue is her desire to do things independently and my desire to get things done in a timely manner. At the moment, those desires are totally incompatible.
I’ve been considering introducing an activity schedule (AKA task completion schedule) to give her a little more independence. There are tons of cute activity schedules on Pinterest (the one I’ve been eyeballing has flaps that your child can flip up to cover each activity as it is finished!), but either the time commitment needed to make them is unrealistic for me, or the complexity needed to use them is unrealistic for my 4-year-old. I need something fast, personalized, and easy to recreate after my daughter rips it up during a particularly bad morning.
September’s Smarty is a fast, easy, and functional picture activity schedule. If you have a printer, it can be made in 20 minutes and can be modified as the activities change (just change the picture). Because the child is using a token system, the back-up reinforcement can change as needed.
This activity schedule can be modified to meet your child’s needs. Some children have difficulty manipulating or keeping track of removable tokens. If this is a challenge, consider making flaps that fold up to cover each picture. The flaps can be held shut with Velcro or double-sided tape. The other side of the flap can have a reinforcing image on it to serve as a token. You may also want to laminate the entire token system to make it sturdier. Some children may have trouble moving forward with the schedule when previous activities are still visible. In this case, you can use the token system with the flaps or put the activities in a binder, in clear plastic sheet protectors. Tokens can go on the front of the binder or on each page with double-sided tape. There are infinite other ways to modify a picture activity schedule and your child’s supervisor can also help you create the most appropriate activity schedule for your child.
In reality, the most important element of a picture activity schedule is instruction. Activity schedules are designed to be completed independently, and they won’t benefit you or your child if you are prompting through each step. Before introducing the schedule, you will need to teach your child to use it.
You can work with your child’s supervisor to introduce the schedule. The Skills® curriculum also has a lesson, Activity Schedules and To-Do Lists, that will help your child learn to use a picture activity schedule to develop his/her independent adaptive skills. One of my favorite references for making, teaching, and modifying activity schedules is, Picture Activity Schedules for Children with Autism, 2nd Edition: Teaching Independent Behavior, by Lynn McClannahan and Patricia Krantz.
I plan to start teaching my daughter to use a schedule for her morning routine next week. I’ll let you know how it goes.