Why make this? When my oldest was diagnosed with Autism nine years ago, we soon realized how critical structured, predicable routines were. They made a night-and-day difference in my son’s behavior that he began to thrive around. To help our son (who was three at the time) and our younger, non-reading children understand those routines, we made schedule boards modeled after the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) that allows non-verbal individuals to communicate using pictures of everyday activities. We had a large board for our home routine (getting dressed, grooming, eating, chores, etc.) and a small, travel version that became our lifeline to handling errands. Shopping trips around town, by nature, were unpredictable and so hard for our son to handle. Using a travel schedule board in the car helped him (and our other kids) see exactly what to expect better than vague words like ‘errands’ that differed every day. Who needs one of these? Everyone! While I created the schedule boards specifically for my special needs son, our whole family did better with a set routine—even our littlest kids knew what to expect and we as parents felt less frazzled and in control. These schedule boards were a staple in our home and car for a few years until our son was able to handle his routine through verbal prompts and discussion only. The schedule boards slowly went away and I hadn’t thought much about them until I saw Nicole from MOMentity.com posting Instagram pictures for her own schedule board last week. I realized how crazy our lives have become and how those boards could help our family become more organized again. Nicole and I decided to share our family’s schedule boards today to show how they can help any family with their routines, but especially those who have children with special needs: Autism for my son and Sensory Processing Disorder for Nicole’s son. We don’t have special needs in our family. Can I still benefit from this? Yes! Schedule boards like Nicole’s for the home or mine for the car can help: * Non-readers easily see and understand sequences and events * Help children track progress and assess time in a visual way while running errands or traveling * No more, “Are we there yet?” or “Are we done yet?” Making A Schedule Board You can check out Nicole’s awesome magnetic schedule board using Instagram pictures with a full tutorial HERE. To make a travel schedule board you’ll need: I took cell phone pictures of all of the places we typically visit throughout the week: grocery stores, church buildings, post offices, parks, friends/family homes, schools, etc. I inserted them into a Word document and printed the thumbnails off on cardstock. (You could also print them from Instagram). Trimmed images were laminated for durability and got a Velcro tab on the back. Each of our pictures are stored on the inside of the file folder (use both sides of necessary.) Our schedule gets mapped on the outside. Using Schedule Boards in the Car Before we roll out of our driveway, I list the places we’re going in order of travel on the back of our folder. As we visit each place, the thumbnail gets returned to the inside so the kids know what’s still left. If I need to change up the routine mid-route, I stop and change the pictures. Kids can then see exactly what’s changed and how the rest of our trip will go. Tips: * Though clip art and stock images will work fine, the most effective way to help children ‘map their day’ is to take pictures of the actual buildings your family visits. This helps children recognize and connect the sequencing and places along the way. My kids love seeing their school, their church, their dance studio. (For internet security, I avoided showing my neighborhood schools, parks, etc., but do use those personal pictures on our boards.) * Don’t forget the less frequented, but still regular stops like dentists, doctors, stores in other cities, etc. * Add words to thumbnails to reinforce literacy. * Make a few blank squares that you can write on to handle unexpected stops with ease. (I use a plain marker.) * For road trips, print off pictures of landmarks or city signs for each anticipated stop. * If the schedule changes, change the board! My son loved seeing exactly what stores we were going to visit on a particular trip (ex. Walmart, Maverik for gas and suckers and then the Post Office.) If for some reason I had to change the sequence (Walmart, Post Office and then Maverik) and didn’t visually make that change on the board, my son became confused and upset. Pulling into the Post Office to him meant, ‘What?? No Maverik? Where’s my sucker?!!’. But he did much better if I would stop in the Walmart parking lot and show him, “Hey bud, there’s construction on this road so mommy’s going to go to the Post Office first and then to Maverik where you can get your sucker. Can you help mommy change our board?” All better. Hope you and your family enjoy getting organized! Be sure to check out Nicole’s magnetic, instagram schedule board over at MOMentity.com. You’ll find a full tutorial as well as great resources for women lost in motherhood who want to achieve their own personal goals while still nurturing home and family. Are you on Instagram? I’d love to connect with you and chat off-blog about Thriving. You can find me at nike_thrive.