It’s half past eight in the morning. Jan, a 10-year-old boy with ADHD, wakes up. His phone plays a nice, calm melody to wake him from his slumber. When the music stops, he looks at the screen of his phone to see a picture in black and white with a little man sitting on his bed and is preparing to stand up. Next to that picture is a small clock, which slowly counts down from two minutes to zero.
Jan sits down on his bed, copying the action he sees on the pictogram. After the two minutes have expired, he hears another signal and Jan looks at his phone again to see the next picture: another puppet washing himself. Next to it is some text saying: “wash up and get dressed.” The app also speaks these instructions out loud in a calm, friendly voice. He can see the picture of a man dressing up next to it, and he can also see the little clock with 10 minutes remaining. Jan begins. He goes through his morning routine and checks off all the scheduled activities one by one.
At 8 o´clock he is sitting at the table for breakfast, with brushed teeth and fully dressed. This would not be possible without the visual support that the phone gave him. His entire day is planned like this, so he gets a notification to get his coat and one that tells him to ride his bike to school. This is also very convenient for his mother. Instead of having to remind Jan of each step in his routine, she can instead spend time on her morning routine. She doesn’t have to ask if he already has his shoes on, or chase him around the house to make sure he will not be late. Jan and his mother both start the day without stress or wasted time.
Visual Scheduling is creating a daily schedule using pictures, also called pictograms. You can also use photos as a pictogram. Most people use downloaded pictograms or pictures made by themselves.
Research of the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community has demonstrated that children with an autism spectrum disorder or with Down’s Syndrome benefit from a visual schedule (www.iidc.indiana.edu/?pageId=394). It’s not only young children who can benefit from using a visual schedule – teenagers with autism or Down’s Syndrome also find it useful. A good schedule provides predictability and structure, thus reducing stress. A visual schedule is also beneficial for people with Alzheimer’s.
Because you don’t have to remember the order of all the activities, you can focus on what you are doing right now. At any time, you know what you are supposed to do and you can always take a look at your planning to see what the next activity is. This way you can mentally prepare for what is up next, alleviating the stress of the day to day routine.
Of course, every system has its pros and cons. If it takes parents too long to create visual schedules, they might begin to wonder if the benefits are worth the time. Most parents see a huge difference in their children’s behavior, so they don’t mind putting in the time to create these schedules. The quicker the schedules can be created, the more likely it is that parents will use them regularly.
There are a few systems to make the creation of a visual schedule easier and less time-consuming. One of the simplest ways is to print out pictures and place them on a to-do list. However, this manual approach takes a lot of time and must be repeated every day.
We wanted to help our son Jan by providing him with visual schedules, but without the daily manual labor. In the end we built AutiPlan.com. This is a website with thousands of pictograms in a database, ready to use. The program uses a drag-and-drop system to place these pictograms in a planning quite easily. You can adjust time and the text showing with the pictogram. Also, different activities, like waking up, brushing your teeth and dressing up can be made into one timeslot. These visual schedules can be printed out on paper, or used directly from an app. The viewer also plays a custom sound when it is time to move on the next activity. To help save even more time Autiplan.com supports reusable templates so you don’t waste time adding the same items – such as getting dressed – each day. This saves a lot of time and work every day, leaving you more time to spend doing fun things with your children.
I know how tough it is for parents, which is why Autiplan is free to use for personal accounts. It contains everything you need to get started with visual schedules. When you create an account there is also a one month trial of the full version included, which includes features such as the PlanViewer, Android-app, weekly schedules and using your own pictures in a Visual schedule.
It helps me and my family every day – I want it to help yours too!
Since Jan uses his app, he does not get angry when little problems arise, because he can concentrate on his tasks. Now he knows exactly what is expected of him. Because he knows exactly how much time is remaining for each activity, he does not get as many panic attacks as before. He gets on his bike and goes to school relaxed.
For more information, please visit www.autiplan.com.