Developing Daily Routines for Children with Disabilities
By Sherry Bushnell
Many children thrive on daily working through a routine. Not only do they know what is expected of them, but they learn valuable skills necessary for the future as adults. A child who has a purpose each day, and is considered an important part of the day, will feel respected and needed. (We all need to feel needed and respected.)
A child able to successfully perform a routine involves being able to do a sequence of activities in the proper order, with no prompting from anyone.
The first step involves sitting down and making a thorough list of the jobs that need to be done to complete a routine. As we identify each separate skill, and then each separate step in the skill, we then make a list of the materials needed to perform it. You may need to use pictures of the materials instead of words.
Let’s use cleaning a room as an example.
Each skill does not need to be done each time, but starting with one skill, even one or two steps of an individual skill, may be most appropriate. As these are mastered, add more steps and skills.
Eventually you can fade yourself out of the project, as they learn to spot mistakes and become proficient.
Remember, the key to moving through a routine, is that each step of the routine becomes a signal for the next step to occur. At first you will need to help with the signal (What do you do next now?”)
Teach him or her to come tell you when he has completed the task, so that both of you can review his progress. He can evaluate his own performance, mark the chart himself, and check it to find the next step in the routine. In time, he / she will be able to clean the room without looking at the chart at all.
Remember Rewards: As you review the chart steps for each skill with your child, help him to focus on that specific skill and to “check off” so he can learn to evaluate his performance by himself. Immediate praise, little prizes, and encouragement go a long way in keeping the “want-to” flowing. In fact, call other family members in to see what an awesome job he/she just did!
When trouble shooting a problem or a skill that is not completed correctly, take the child to the center of the room and say, “Something’s wrong, can you find it?” or
“Something is not finished yet, can you see it?”
As needed, point or show the areas or objects involved in the search. Show him or her how to investigate an area for missing steps.
A chart with drawings or easy words with nice check boxes placed in a prominent area in the room allows them to review and stay in sequential order. It also helps to turn off the radio, TV or distraction. Consider ushering everyone out of the room that would potentially distract, to avoid misplacing the focus on the task at hand.
Teaching skills to our children with special needs is a wonderful way to help them feel like an important part of the household. No one really just wants a free ride after a while. Being a help means being engaged with surroundings and supporting the people they love to be with.