Individual schedules are a necessity in autism classrooms. None of us are strangers to visual schedules posted right the wall of most elementary autism classroom. Usually color coded, usually tacked right up on the wall at eye level of the kiddos who use them day in and day out. It’s just one of those staples of an autism classroom, with very good reason.
But then our kids grow up an go off to middle school. The tippy top of those visual wall schedules are just chin level with our students. They can read the advanced level of New-2-You for crying out loud. A visual schedule tacked on the wall is not right for them in any sense.
But hold up a second! Just because they have graduated from pictures and a wall schedule, doesn’t mean they are content with a usual “flow of the day” schedule. There is a lot for our students to get out of individual schedules around the classroom.
If you haven’t ever been convinced of why you should still use schedules for your advanced students, allow me to share some reasons I personally think it is imperative.
A chance to practice transitions
As crucial as visual schedules are in the autism classroom, there is a chance that you inherited students that never had a chance to learn how to utilize schedules. Your classroom might be their first opportunity! For our students, being able to manage themselves in the classroom is a first step to being able to self-direct and manage themselves in a workplace. There’s not always going to be a paraprofessional or manager to direct students to do what they need to do.
One way to up the ante for your work schedules is adding time. This is a great way to generalize time identification if your students are working on time. Depending on your students’ level, you can add just digital time, or even add clock visuals.
Chances are, your schedule is going to get screwed up sometimes. No matter how hard we try to create predictability for our students, occasionally, a wrench (or fire drill) is thrown into our day. These can really good opportunities for us to model flexibility and how to be chill when this happens. The beauty of using a page protector is that it easily can be written on with a dry-erase marker. Students can take the time to change their schedules when they find out there is a change.
If the schedule is not on the wall, then where should I store it?
For my students, our schedules live in a binder. Housed in this binder is all of their morning work, behavior incentives sheets, IEP goal work, and even tools they know they can reference while they work. It gives them an opportunity to organize themselves and know where everything they need is.