When my son was younger, we used a visual schedule.
We had a pouch up on the wall with various laminated pictures depicting our activities for the day. As he completed the activity, he took the picture out of its pouch and set it aside until the next day.
It worked very, very well. It helped with transitions and kept our days on track.
That visual schedule was essential in our early years.
Fast forward and my son is now 12 years old. Profoundly dyslexic, he still struggles to read. He also still struggles to keep track of time, to not feel overwhelmed by the day’s tasks and to transition from one activity to the next.
Moreover, his tasks and activities often happen outside our home in the form of therapies, doctor appointments and classes.
He asks me at least five times a day what’s next, his anxiety and concern clearly building. We recite the days activities in order, I remind him of upcoming transitions with ten minute warnings, but the truth is, he still feels like he is at the mercy of our day’s schedule.
I remembered last week, that visual schedule and how much he loved it. It brought him a sense of calm and control – exactly what he seems to be missing now.
Friday Fun-days: 52 weeks of Easy For Mom Activities
For this week’s Friday FunDay Activity, I decided to try to create a super simple, age appropriate visual schedule to help him manage his days and be able to anticipate our tasks and appointments. (This is of course, not the most fun activity we have ever attempted. But it just might be the most helpful!)
In order for this updated, older kiddo visual schedule to work, I knew it needed to meet the following criteria:
He’s a 12-year-old boy. Need I say more?
We are in and out of the house all day. In order for this to work, I knew it needed to be a something he could take with him.
I hoped to incorporate a hands-on element to the schedule, because I know this kid. He will always, always, always respond more favorably to a hands-on approach.
Easy To Manage (for both of us)
If I have to create it every day, it needs to be simple and quick. If he has to manage it all day, it needs to be simple and quick.
With all of this in mind, here is what we have been using since last Friday, with great results!
A Hands-On Visual Schedule For Older Kids
The idea is so simple, I am almost embarrassed to be writing an entire post about it, but hear me out –
Post-Its Are My New Best Friend.
1. The post-its are visually easy on his eyes. It does not appear to be one big mess of writing, like what he has experienced when we have tried traditional student planners in the past.
2. They allow us to plan with an eye on the tasks and appointments, rather than the time of day. This matters because if we are late to a planned activity, this causes so much stress I want to take the planner and throw it. (“It’s 10:30 AM and we were supposed to do the activity at 10:00 AM” are fighting words around here.) It also accommodates a bit of the “time blindness” my son experiences. He is able to stay on track without having to manage time – a very difficult task for him.
3. They are also disposable, which means when he is finished with a task, he happily pulls it off the page and crumples it up (this is the hands-on piece he needs and craves).
4. Post-its are not only age appropriate, they are a part of planning methods for adults as well, making this method something that is sustainable as he gets older.
So far, so good with this one. Although it is still a work in progress, it has been exactly what I hoped for – a way for him to feel a sense of control over his days, and stay on track in the process.