3 years ago (in Jan 2020) I announced that my theme for the year was special needs families, and I had plans to create content all year long specifically to help kids with Autism, ADHD, anxiety, Downs Syndrome, and other special needs. Then the pandemic hit, and a lot of what I’d planned, including materials to help in classroom settings and while traveling, no longer made a lot of sense, so I paused a lot of that content. Over the next 3 years, though, I’ve worked on getting all of that content created and posted to my website, most of which you can find on my Special Needs page.
Today, I’ve posted a set of 4 free visual schedules on Teachers Pay Teachers that you can download and use right now.
These 4 free picture checklists can help kids stay organized and calm as they kick off their school day. The morning routine and lunch packing checklists let them take responsibility for getting themselves ready in the morning and having everything they need with them for school. The school day checklist helps them know and remember what to do when they arrive at school. The classroom rules help kids remember visually what’s expected of them during the day.
On my special needs page, you’ll also find visual supports for other daily tasks like taking a shower, getting dressed, brushing teeth, an after school checklist, and a bedtime routine. There are free versions of all of these available to print or use on a mobile device, along with the ability to edit any of them to suit your needs.
My special needs page also shares a link to a page where you can read more about my special needs employee, my niece Gaby. Gaby used visual supports heavily at home and in school, all the way through high school! The lunch box packing list instructions you see above are how Gaby packed her lunch. She also had a separate visual schedule that taught her how to make the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Once she was at school, she had a beginning of day checklist specific to her that helped her start her day off on the right foot – she knew exactly what to do when she got to her classroom.
In high school, a visual school schedule helped her know what classes she had each day when she had to move from room to room and her schedule was different from one day to the next. The school she attended phased out visual schedules for most of the kids in high school, believing that they were infantilizing. My sister insisted, though, knowing how effective visual schedules still were for Gaby. My sister points out that you wouldn’t take away someone’s wheelchair because they reached an age where they shouldn’t need it anymore. She viewed visual supports for Gaby in the same way. It was a support that helped Gaby function independently, and there was no need to take it away. She did prefer to use a hook and loop schedule, though, so that it could be easily changed each day and slipped into Gaby’s folder to go with her to each class. Although many of the kids in Gaby’s Autism room had trouble remembering their own schedule, they all knew Gaby’s schedule by heart because it was right there for them to see.
Kids with special needs will find it comforting to know exactly what’s coming next. Visual schedules can also be used to teach a new skill by breaking it down into smaller steps and helping your child stay focused all the way through the task while they learn the right way to do it.
You can read more about creating and using visual schedules here and here.