Can you imagine a life without a calendar, diary or phone reminder? How would we keep track of the appointments we have, places we are expected to be at and what our to-do list has on it each day? This could lead to feelings of anxiety and uncertainty, therefore affecting the way in which we are able to efficiently complete tasks of daily living. With this in mind, children similarly have difficulty making sense of time and knowing what the plan is for the day ahead. Establishing a structured routine with a visual schedule can be a super helpful tool to support children’s emotional regulation, manage anxiety and their understanding of situations.
What Is A Visual Schedule
You may be thinking, this sounds great! but what exactly is a visual schedule and how do we go about it? Let’s dive in a little deeper.
A visual schedule is used to enhance children’s understanding of the upcoming plan and give them a sense of predictability. It provides sequential information addressing the steps within a desired activity, the day, week or month in the vibrant form of images. It’s extremely beneficial in assisting children with acknowledging what is going to happen and the order in which they will occur. Most teachers will have visual schedules in their classrooms, so their students know the routine for the day.
Benefits Of A Visual Schedule
By incorporating visual schedules into a child’s daily routine, it provides them with a clear way of understanding the process involved in tasks and anticipating future events so they’re able to organise their thoughts.
Further benefits of a visual schedule include:
- Provides predictability & structure.
- Assist children transition between tasks with ease.
- Promotes emotional regulation in children, who may otherwise display feelings of anxiety.
- Move between activities with the guidance of a schedule, rather than relying on others to prompt them.
- Learn the concept of first, then, next & last.
- Develops the child’s independence & reinforces the habit of seeking information;
- So versatile, they can be used in a variety of settings!
What’s The Difference Between A Routine And Visual Schedule?
So, the question now is, how do visual schedules and routines go hand in hand? Aren’t they essentially the same thing? Very similar! However, routines dominate most of our day from the moment we wake up and the time we go to sleep.
Each and every one of us complete a set of tasks throughout the day. This is to ensure we’re remaining productive and taking personal care of ourselves and those around us. Simple things such as brushing our teeth, getting to and from work, picking up the kids from school are tasks that Occupational Therapists like to call Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s) or Daily Living Tasks.
Just like adults, kids have routines that they are required to complete each and every day, whether it be going to preschool, primary/ high school or recreational sport on the weekend. Now, kids haven’t had as much practice with routines as adults have, so they need a little extra assistance in knowing what needs to be done to complete and tasks.
How Occupational Therapy Can Help
We like to teach the concept of neuroplasticity to inform children how to be independent. Moreover, perform activities of daily living. Each day we learn to adapt our behaviour by the experiences we’ve faced. Changes to our brain structure and organisation occur during these moments. In other terms, this is known as the ‘muscle building’ part of the brain. As we perform tasks consistently and on a structured basis, it assists with our development of neuroplasticity and building pathways over time which will result in a more efficient way in completing the tasks.
Some examples of routines for children may include:
- Consistent wake-up and bed-time each day.
- Completing morning/ afternoon tasks in the same order each day. This can include getting dressed/ undressed, showering, toileting and personal hygiene.
- Having an allocated time for homework and screen time.
Now that we’ve addressed the benefits of visuals schedules and routines, head over to our resources and download our Daily Home Schedule!