Creating A Summer Picture Schedule For Your Child With Autism

I can't believe it's June!  The pool is open, kids are getting out of school, and it's time for summer fun.

Most kids seem to love summer, however a lot of kids with special needs have a difficult time during the summer months.  Some of this can be attributed to the fact that their schedule is suddenly thrown out of whack.  They may not understand why the bus stopped picking them up and why suddenly no one is doing what they're supposed to be doing.  They may not understand why those teachers that they see every day and they thought loved them have suddenly disappeared out of their lives.  There's a lot that we just expect our kids to deal with.

I had one student that I found out when we would have school breaks (I was on a year-round schedule), he would sleep with his backpack.  I also found out that at the end of the year and it was summer break he would sleep with a picture of me.  The funny thing is that it was his "no school" sign, so it was a picture of me with an X through it.  The thing that his mom and I loved about this was that he was communicating to us that he loved school.  He was non-verbal, and had very little communication.

Some (not all) kids with autism thrive on having a routine.  Behavior problems may decrease, they may be able to learn better, and a lot of times they appear to be happier.  This can be a good thing because we (the adults) can easily help with that.  At times this can also be a difficult thing if flexibility is not taught and used during these routines.

There are different ways to establish a routine.  One way is through picture schedules.  With pictures, a child is able to predict what is going to happen during their day.  They don't have to be so specific and every minute doesn't have to be planned out, but having some general idea of the day can help immensely.  If your child is at a reading level, doing a picture schedule left to right gives good left to right orientation practice.  Going from top to bottom is another way to do it, and is easier for some kids.

The order that you do things is not important, actually I would encourage you to mix things up every once in a while because it can help with the flexibility.  The thing that is routine and stays the same for them is that they know where the schedule is, and they know that it will show what is going to happen. When you go on outings, you don't necessarily have to have where you are going on the schedule, but just that you're going.  However, it would be good to have a routine built in of explaining where you are going whether it's with a social story, or just explaining it.  This way you can plan new activities without having to create new pictures all the time.  You can also add unexpected events into the schedule this way.

Here is a sample schedule,  you may want less pictures or more, it's really up to you  (I just got a bunch of pictures off of google images)  The best placement for a schedule is at eye level for the child and somewhere that they can go look at it independently when they want to:
Get Dressed


TV Time
Play Outside
Family Activity
Get dressed for bed

Brush Teeth
Go To Sleep
Joy Mano
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Early Intervention Services for Kids With Autism

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