Individual schedules

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Breaking down individual behavior management

  • Individual schedules


In the classroom management section Visual schedules we discussed putting up schedules for the entire class. This section looks at schedules as an individual behavior management strategy. Individual schedules are, a research validated behavior management strategy.

Out of all of the strategies, schedules are by far the easiest to implement. The schedules work with any student who needs to feel in control and needs predictability which, face it, is all of your students, not just the students with autism or emotional disturbances. The schedule lets the student see what is coming next and prepare for it as well as see where the good stuff (recess, lunch, PE, etc) is in their day. Plus, schedules have that magical dismissal time on them which reminds students that the day really will end. Here are some tips on individual schedules:

  • Know the student.
    • Visual schedules range from object schedules to picture schedules to word schedules. What does the student need? Don’t be fooled into thinking that all twelve year olds are ready for word schedules.
    • How much information can they take at one time? Older students might be able to handle seeing the entire schedule for the day at one time. Younger students might need to see only one or two activities ahead.
    • Do they need a complete schedule or only a schedule for the things that pertain only to them? Many fourth and fifth grade students are fine with a classroom schedule on the board and an individual schedule on their desk that lists pull-out times and reward or check-in times.

  • Make sure the schedule is set up first thing in the morning and reviewed.
    • A whoops at ten a.m. doesn’t work with visual schedules. They need to be set up and reviewed at the beginning of the day. With younger students, review the schedule throughout the day. “Look, math is all done. Next is reading, then recess.”

  • Be smart in setting up the schedule.
    • If you know the student hates PE with a passion, make sure the next activity on their schedule is a preferred one like computer. When you are getting close to PE, make sure the student sees that after PE is computer. It can help motivate them to go to PE.

  • Use First Then language
    • Students, especially those with autism, have often been taught First… Then language and All Done. Don’t rock the boat. If First Then language has been working, use it. “Look Juanita, First PE then computer.” In addition, All Done language, is often helpful when it is time to get a student to stop doing a preferred activity. Set a timer and when the timer has gone off, show the student the schedule. Have them cross off or detatch the preferred activity and say “all done”. Then show them what is coming next.

  • Warn the student about changes.
    • Let them know if there is anything weird or unusual about the schedule. Warning the students about changes to the schedule reduces the chance of a freak out when the unexpected activity comes around. This is especially key for students with anxiety and students with autism.

  • Be consistent
    • Use the schedule every single day. If you skip using it Monday and Tuesday then it isn’t going to be a magic bullet that helps on Wednesday when the student is upset about getting off the computer. Nothing shows effect right away—use the schedule consistently for six weeks before you look at changing it or putting something else in place.