In Special Education, difficulties with communication and processing orders can be relatively common. These types of disorders may be the main disability or a symptom of a different diagnosis, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder. It is important for teachers and caregivers to determine how best to manage some of the difficulties associated with these types of disorders. Students with communication and processing difficulties may have trouble with schedules, routines, and transitions.
These students or individuals often thrive on routine and the ability to anticipate what is happening next. An extremely common tool in the special education classroom is a Schedule Board or Schedule Chart. It allows the students to know what is occurring and what will happen next. Having more than one visual schedule template will be useful as the needs of each student will differ, and they may respond to different layouts.
A schedule board is an outline of the daily events of the day. They typically have a simple picture symbol to represent each step. Text of the activity or event will also usually accompany the picture symbol as a way to reinforce written language.
Schedule boards are frequently personalized for individuals based on their needs and abilities. There are many ways to display the schedules as well. Schedule boards may show only one or two activities at a time or they may show the entire day.
Some individuals may become overwhelmed by the entire day’s activities at once. When that is the case, a schedule board similar to our First Then schedule board may be utilized. This board only shows two activities at a time, the current one and the activity immediately following it.
Schedule boards are most often used for individuals but can be used for a classroom as a general guide for the school day and what is to be expected. This type of schedule board will display all events in chronological order.
Here is an example of one for the entire classroom. Most classroom schedule boards are displayed vertically.
Try to use the same symbol for each specific activity every time. This allows the individual user to connect the upcoming activity with the picture symbol on their board. This can really assist with the transition to the next activity if they are able to truly anticipate the activity. Some activities may have multiple picture possibilities so choose the one that will resonate best with the student. For an example, look at just a few of the options that could represent “Doctor”.
While using art for certain objects is a great way to add a visual component, there will always be a time where an actual real-life image would be better. This could be for a specific activity that is just so unique, the only way to represent it would be with a real picture. It could also be for some individuals who struggle with abstract thinking and require an actual image for every activity. You can either search for an image to add or upload images to put into your storyboards.
As anyone who has used a schedule board knows, it can be very time consuming to create, especially if you have to make them for multiple students. A great way to save time and to create a reusable product is to create it ahead of time. This is also a great way to make sure you are consistent with the symbols you are using.
Create picture symbol cells for all the anticipated activities
Create a schedule board format for the individual students, leaving the cells blank
Cut out the activity cells individually
Laminate all the activity cell pieces and the blank schedule board
Stick one side of a piece of Velcro onto each activity cell, and the other side to the schedule board cells, so they line up when placed on
Store all the activity pieces so they are available, as you need them (I personally prefer using a seal-able sandwich bag.)
Keep in mind, if there is an activity, such as visiting the bathroom, that will occur more than one time a day, to create more than one activity cell for it.
Always save your storyboards so you can return to them and reprint a symbol. It is almost always a guarantee that at least one will inevitably disappear in your classroom!