Using a schedule makes my student look different from her peers.
As we have seen, using a daily schedule helps reduce the stress that most of the individuals with autism feel at home, at school or at work due to the unpredictability of day to day life. This stress often leads to various behaviors that can set individuals apart from their peers. Some may enter a fight or flight mode if the stress seems overwhelming. Others may withdraw or shut down. Still others may resort to “stim” behaviors for self calming. Using a schedule to help individuals on the Spectrum feel more comfortable in their environment, perform more independently and behave more similarly to peers can actually help them “blend in” with the group.
Schedules should be customized for each individual according to age level, developmental level and environment in which it is to be used. Beginning user schedules can be as simple as a Velcroed strip of pictures on the wall that are matched to each location visited during the day. Intermediate users may have a portable notebook schedule that travels with them. More advanced users may use an e-device such as an iPhone or an iPad with a schedule application. Using a schedule is a life skill that needs to be learned early on and modified for the individuals changing needs. More able learners should be taught how to set-up and manage their own schedules as further step in independence. As typically developing peers mature, most schools require students to carry planners. Our students on the Spectrum will look right at home using their personalized schedules.