This week, I am discussing antecedent interventions. These are strategies you can use to prevent problem behaviors from occurring in your classroom. Check out my posts on this topic all week long! Today, I will be talking about SCHEDULES!
Schedules are also ridiculously important in helping prevent problem behaviors. Again, with the lack of language skills inherent with autism, visual schedules are essential to helping create a predictable environment. It helps students understand how events are sequenced (and therefore help simplify the concept of "time"). They also help students understand that preferred activities will occur (even if they are a few activities away).
For example, I had a student who became very upset (screaming, biting himself, etc) often throughout the day. His number 1 reinforcer was the iPad. He had "break" on his schedule, but didn't understand that this meant he could have the iPad. So, when we added in the iPad picture to his schedule (instead of break), a lot of his problem behaviors were reduced. He was able to understand that iPad was going to be available…just as soon as he got through his other scheduled activities.
Really, schedules work with everyone…not just kids with autism. I mean, I use my school schedules and lesson-planing calendars daily to remember what we are doing; I have a calendar on my phone that I couldn't live without; and I have a blog calendar to keep track of what I'm doing over here. In my school, some gen ed teachers have even requested I make them a picture schedule to hang in their classrooms. And, the days they are out and have a substitute, the subs are happy, because they know what the schedule is, and the kids are happy, because they continue with their same routines. And you avoid those nagging questions..."when is recess?" "do we have gym or music today?" because it is posted right on the wall for all to see!
Schedules in an autism room just need to be a little more explicit and nitty gritty than most other schedules. However, as students start to "get" the idea of the schedule, they can be faded to be more naturalistic ones. Another thing we often forget with our students is that following a schedule is a skill. Most of our students need to be directly taught this skill in a very consistent manner. That means that between EVERY activity, you are working on checking the schedule for what is next. This takes up A LOT of time in the beginning, but is so worth it in the end.
Here are a few examples of how schedules are used in my room.
We have a schedule for every child in one spreadsheet (used by the adults in the room) for every minute of the day.
We have a schedule for all of the adults (what activity they are in charge of and which students) for every minute of the day. This is a zoomed in example of one of my assistant's schedules. These also come in super handy when you have a sub...it takes way less time to explain what you want them to do all day, when you can hand them a detailed schedule like this.
We have a general, class-wide daily schedule posted on the wall.
We have individual schedules for each student tailored to their level. Right now, I have 2 versions of velcro picture schedules. One is color coded…and the other is not. Last year, I had a guy on a large color coded schedule velcroed to the wall. He has now graduated to this smaller version in a binder and had no problem adjusting! I love the schedule in the binder because it is more age appropriate/functional (because it can be moved to various locations) than a wall schedule!
I also have several students who have been faded off the picture schedule to a word schedules where they just cross off each item as they complete it.
For my morning group, we have a detailed schedule of each activity we complete. They are posted on the white board, so I can make check-marks next to them as we complete each activity.
For my advanced morning group/guided reading group, we have a "What" and "Why" board that we utilize (which is also a district mandated thing for all of the gen ed classes). Under "What," we write what we will be doing each day (our schedule), and under "Why," we write the importance of the activities or what we will learn.
I also use some schedules at my stations such as this example from the language station. This shows for each day, if the kids will be doing work with an assistant on flashcards (blue) or independent work in a binder (red).
This was a schedule I created mostly for myself for my direct instruction station to help me remember which IEP goals I wanted to address each day. But the kids benefitted from it as well!
That was a lot of schedules! Do you have anything you use schedules for that I missed? Tomorrow, stop back for some ideas on reinforcement systems that can be used to prevent problem behavior!