Eddie smiling while swinging on a swing set

Building Routines

Eddie’s favorite thing to say is, “…and then?” I bet many of your kids have that same phrase at the top of their vocabulary. We spend the morning in a comedic routine of, “After breakfast…and then?” “After shower…and then?” No matter what information we provide, it is always followed with “…and then?” As I’m sure you’d expect, the “and then” game can go on until the end of time if we allowed it.

In an effort to provide some context to Eddie’s days, with help from school, we’ve set up a schedule for him. Right now, we’re building it out for one week, but we hope it’ll be two weeks soon. On the calendar he has a tactile symbol representing the day of the week and another symbol indicating one activity he has to do that day. So, when he says, “After Sunday…and then?” We answer with, “On Monday, we will swing.”

Eddie interacting with a tactile calendar

This first week, we have set the expectations very low. On Monday he was expected to swing, which was actually a big deal because Eddie hadn’t been outside in nine days. We kept offering outdoor activities and he kept declining. So, when we said that was his one thing he had to do Monday, he went happily outside. On Tuesday, his one thing was a ride in a golf cart. I realize this is very unique to our family. Wednesday was yoga through the ExCEL Academy provided by the American Printing House for the Blind and Paths to Literacy.

If your child needs a routine like ours, and maybe doesn’t have an easy way to conceptualize time, you may also want to check out the use of tactile symbols and daily or weekly schedules. Next week, we hope to add more items on his daily list, and slowly build up expectations. Eddie is already reciting how his week has gone so far, and he seems less anxious, too. You can find ideas for symbols here: https://www.tsbvi.edu/component/content/article/1116-tactile-symbols-directory-to-standard-tactile-symbol-list. If you don’t have the exact materials, we’ve even put symbols on fridge magnets before, which was easy access for Eddie. We’ve used other household items, too.

On Facebook this week, I saw a friendly reminder to everybody about the day of the week. As we fall out of normalcy and the business of travelling to and from work, it’s easy to forget where we land on the calendar. If it’s hard for us, it’s really hard for our kids. By providing concrete activities to mark the passing of days, we all may stay sane.