Project: Create a Visual Schedule (that includes Maya's AAC symbol language) is completed! Finally. And it looks pretty darn good, if I do say so myself. Check it out:
Again, I made the visual schedule to support Maya's interests. She's into knowing what's going to happen next (we've made schedule on wipe-off boards when she's upset about stopping an activity to show her that we have to do a-b-c, and then you can play with the bus again). However, even if your child isn't super into schedules, I've seen a lot of stuff online (and heard from therapists) that schedules can be beneficial to have on hand and refer to. (But don't take my word for it, feel free to talk to your own therapy folks and see what they think.)
Here's a step-by-step guide on how to recreate this visual schedule:
Note: I built this schedule horizontally (instead of vertically) to support pre-reading skills. We read from left to right, and it's nice to expose little ones to this idea.
1. Setting up the background: I got the idea to use a frame as a schedule background from a blog reader, and I loved it! Prior to seeing her frame I was going to just stick velcro on the wall, but the frame makes it look so nice and finished. I used a 12" x 36" frame. For the background I picked up a yard of fabric at the craft store (actually, Maya picked it---see the alligators?) and just folded it inside the frame. Fabric was easy to put in and will be easy to switch out when we move on from alligators.
I put two rows of velcro onto the glass. I left some extra space at the bottom (you'll see why when you scroll down). Helpful hint: Attach some word cards to the velcro before sticking the velcro on the frame---that way your velcro strips will be placed far enough apart to accomodate the word cards.
2. Making the word cards: Since Maya doesn't read yet, her word cards include pictures and printed text. If your child uses (or will use) PECs or an AAC app/device, it's best to use the symbol language of that system as your pictures. (Maya uses Speak for Yourself, and so we use the Smarty Symbols that are found in that app.) In Maya's app each word is represented by a sequence of two pictures, and that's why each word card has two pictures. (You can read a bit more about that here.)
The general steps for making our word cards went like this: print images, cut out images, tape them onto index card, print word at the bottom, laminate the index card, cut it out, attach velcro to the back. Time consuming, but in a channel-your-inner-middle-schooler, arts-and-crafty sort of way.
Helpful hint: Use small pieces of velcro. If you use larger pieces, they become challenging to unstick, especially for kids with any muscle weakness. Also, small pieces ensures that your child won't pull hard enough to rip the velcro strip from the wall, or crack the glass in a frame.
3. What to do about word storage? When you make a schedule you're going to end up with a lot of words that aren't in use at any given time (at the bottom of this post I'm including a list of all the words that I've made so far). I puzzled over what to do with these not-in-use words. Poking around online, I found that many people kept their spare words in a binder with velcro pages (very similar to the Word Book). I didn't love this idea, because I wasn't sure where I would keep the big binder. Since our word cards are 3x5 index cards, I also thought about buying index card boxes----but again, where would they be stored? Dave came up with the magical solution: binder rings.
I love binder rings---they're easy to open and close, so we can pop the cards off the ring to lay out choices for Maya, but clean up would be easy as well. So I punched holes in the sides of the word cards and sorted them into a few separate piles.
This ring holds the cards for places that we go.
Binder rings make storage really easy. I bought some of those adhesive hooks at the drugstore and hung them next to the schedule.
4. When the cards are done: As we move through the day Maya will be able to pull the completed cards off of the schedule and put them away. I wasn't sure what to use for a "done" area until Maya's speech therapist suggested using a folder-brilliant! I cut the bottom off of a folder, cut down a bit to make the pocket more shallow, covered the edges with tape (in a bid to prevent paper cuts), and added two small pieces of velcro to the back:
Again, small piece of velcro on the folder and a large strip on the frame.
When words are done, they go into the pocket. Ta-da!
And so the schedule project is mostly done. I say mostly because I'm 100% sure that over the next week or so I'll realize how many words I forgot to make and be slowly churning them out. Here are the words that we started with:
Go-to daily words: breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, ready (get ready for school), bus (to school), school, bus (from school), home, bedtime
Places we go: park, playground, library, museum, zoo, dog park, grocery store
Stuff we do at home: toys, paint, color, dollhouse, read, draw, puzzle, play dough, chalk, play kitchen, choice time
Miscellaneous words: therapist's names, learning time, mouth exercises, bath
(Note: There aren't a lot of details in the morning and evening routines because I'm planning on making a little morning checklist and a little night checklist.)