Top 10 Benefits of Visual Schedules
1. Master Routines: SchKIDules makes it easier for kids to recognize and learn their daily routines. Kids do not always pick up on trends and often the abstract can feel very chaotic or spontaneous. Showing your child visually that, for instance, the same 8 steps occur every morning during the process of getting ready for school helps them understand the repetition of the “morning routine” and also allows them to see that they don’t participate in any other activities during this time.
2. Reduce Forgetfulness and Combat Distraction: Forgetfulness and distraction are two sides of the same coin. And both are linked to what is happening in your child’s mind as you are relaying messages to them. If your child is easily distracted, forgets often, has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit or requires you to repeat yourself, a visual schedule provides the language permanence that will help eliminate this problem. When we speak, our words are only available for a moment. When we support speech with something tangible like pictures, kids can refer to it for as long as he/she needs.
3. Foster Independence: We all want our kids to learn self-management. We want them to know what to do, when to do it and how to do it without always needing our help. When they are very young we are hands-on parents who guide them through these processes and explain the purpose. When they are reaching adolescence we expect them to have learned these steps on their own. A “half-step” in between these two stages is the visual schedule. It removes the parent from the process some, but still helps a child in the early stages of self-reliance.
4. Relieve Anxiety: Whether the anxiety is mild or severe, kids can experience it when they don’t know what to expect. Some kids crave the knowledge and feel uneasy not knowing what to plan for (Type-As). Others sense “chaos” when they don’t have a grasp on what’s to come which can make a child feel very anxious. Either way, an anxious child is not a relaxed child and a parent is more likely to encounter behavioral problems when a child feels anxious. Sharing “what’s next” or what’s happening that day can provide a sense of calm, predictability and safety to your child. This, in turn, will reduce their anxiety as well as provide a platform for your child to share their concerns and questions.
5. Build Self Confidence: Confidence can come from two places when using a visual schedule. The first and more obvious reason is that your child will build confidence from the successes a visual schedule will help them enjoy. They will learn how to redirect themselves, answer their own questions, be the subject of corrections less often, and feel good about doing things all by themselves. The second reason is that for some kids being a part of “the plan” makes them feel included. When they are left out of the loop they can get the message that “you are just a kid you don’t need to know” or feel “less than”, and this can shrink their confidence. When the plan is shared with this personality type it can almost feel like an acknowledgement that they matter and that they are a valued part of the family.
6. Strengthen Trust: Children are constantly receiving inputs that tell them if they can trust the world around them. When we as parents say something and follow through with it, our child’s sense of security is strengthened. Visual schedules help everyone in the household to follow through on their word because the posted activity is well understood. For instance, it is easy to say we are going to the park, let the day overwhelm us, and then change our minds. Perhaps we tell ourselves that our young child didn’t really understand when we were going anyway and that gives us an excuse to break our promise. With a visual schedule, the plan is quite concrete and your child understands the plan. When that plan executes as promised, your child knows he/she can trust your word as well of their own understanding of what you promised.
7. Healthier Choices: Parents who use SchKIDules to display the day ahead to their child are far more likely create a healthier plan of action for the day AND actually stick to it. To the first point, posting a schedule makes you and your child first look at your choices. Much like when someone who wants to lose weight starts a food diet, there is something in the psychology of having to write down bad choices that makes you change those choice. So if you begin to use a SchKIDule, skip morning routines and put that the only activity of the afternoon is TV time…it’s highly likely you won’t like how that looks and you’ll start to set up something of better quality. To the second point, once you set it up and your child shares in this experience, it makes you (the parent) more accountable to follow through. Again, it is much like having a workout partner. Once you say you will meet them at the gym at 2, you better go.
8. Fewer Meltdowns/Tantrums: The idea of preparing a child for what’s next is a behavioral strategy you may already be using. Parents engage in this practice when they say “5 more minutes” at the playground or “30 minutes until bedtime”. Each of these verbal cues are said to prepare a child to either stop doing something they enjoy, or to be ready to do something they don’t enjoy. In both instances, the reason parents give these “warnings” is in hopes the child will be able to better anticipate this bad news and cope with it better when it happens. When a child does not know what is next, their “coping” with bad news happens at the same time you need them to act on the bad news. When we give verbal warnings the comprehension (and therefore subsequent compliance) is subject to if they heard it and how they processed it. With pictures, a child can concretely see that not only does their activity have an “end” but that several other concrete things follow that activity. This helps them understand from the beginning that all things are temporary and the day is made up of many segments with different activities. Not only does this mean increased comprehension of the situation, but it also means the child’s coping skills are triggered way in advance. This leads to a reduction in tantrums and meltdowns when the challenging time arrives.
9. Fewer Power Struggles/Battle for Control: So this is where the magic comes in. Okay, maybe it’s not magic. Maybe it’s more of a parent outsmarting their child but there is an extra factor to this one that we adults sometimes just can’t explain. We receive many testimonials that say something like “If I tell my kid to do something ring the bell and get in your corners. If the magical SchKIDule said to do it, well then it just happens”. We don’t know why but sometimes parents need a messenger. Kids can tell you are in charge and some just plain old don’t like it and will fight you for that control. A SchKIDule seems to add a “neutral party” to the messaging system and kids tend NOT to connect that it is still you who set it up. For some, this strategy will cure the battle of wills. For others, parents may have to take the process a step further to accomplish the sense of perceived control by the child. One can do this by presenting options for things like what free time activity is selected that morning or, if there is no flexibility in what you are doing, then perhaps you can let the child choose the order of events. Either way, your child will perceive less control by you and more by them and that can sometimes be just enough to eliminated unwanted behaviors.
10. Increased Cooperation: If you’ve read all 9 reasons so far then you can kind of see that so many of those benefits are going to result in living with a more cooperative child. But here is a second potential reason your child just may be a little more cooperative when you post a visual schedule. Have you ever had a friend call and say “Are you busy this Saturday?” You’d like to say your free but that depends on if they are inviting you to the beach or asking you to help move furniture all day. In general we don’t like agreeing to things when we don’t know the details and some people are wired to be particularly protective of this. When a visual schedule is used to communicate expectations that a child sees as a “to do list” of things they may not enjoy, it can help to see that your list is finite. They might comply more when they see that after accomplishing these 5 things you will let them have free time vs thinking you are just going to keep adding and adding to the list.
One final point, and we suppose this could have been number 11, but really it is a benefit of visual schedules that is the cumulative effect of benefits #1-10 and that is reduced stress. Families report to us that their family stress level has gone down as a result of employing a visual schedule in their home and at the end of the day we ALL could use a little of that.
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