Radical Unschooling

#100 Days of Home Ed…Day 8

I am sitting at the computer station in PanKwake’s new gaming/art/school room. It is actually the conservatory. But it is only the second room in this #HomeCrazzyHome to be finished. And it is not quite. I still have posters to hang and plastic trays to slot into the Ikea organizers. But it is where I put most of my efforts yesterday.

One of those tasks was to hang her weekly schedule with the help of a dear friend.

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I first heard of Weekly Schedules from the Occupational Therapists when we were trying to deal with meltdowns when her dad picked her up for visits. The idea is that it allows autistic children to SEE what is happening at glance and thus they can prepare.

Like other strategies meant for those on the autistic spectrum, it does not quite work the same way with Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA). In fact, if I put up something like a doctor’s appointment…it will only INCREASE her anxiety and the chances of a meltdown. So in that way it has been counter-productive.

But a few weeks ago at the beginning of the year, I pulled it out for another reason. After five futile years of trying to teach PanKwake about time…minutes, hours, days, weeks and all the rest…she is FINALLY beginning to show some interest.

We have brought timers off of Amazon to help with the minutes and hour. For months, almost a year or more, she has been measuring time in television shows and movies.

  • 5 minutes = a commercial
  • 10 minutes = a Minnie Boutique
  • 15 minutes = a Phineas and Ferb
  • 30 minutes = a Ninjago
  • 2 hours (or more) = a Frozen

But now she can watch the sands through the hourglass like the days of our lives…sorry this Southern girl could not resist the temptation to quote a soap opera.

And she counts days as ‘sleeps and wake-ups’. We even have used Advent calendars…not just at Christmas either. But when her carer Regina would go home to Germany on holiday, we would order one from Amazon and use it to count down how ever many days until she came back. We even made a wall calendar with a big green glittery house on February 11th for the count down to the move.

But I got a bit tired of…’what are we doing today’…’when do I see Mog again’…’when is gymnastics’…’when do I see my friend’. So I thought…pull her weekly schedule down and put up the GOOD stuff. That she can handle.

Of course, since she has gotten older since I first made it three or four years ago, she is much more interested in it. So we have made some improvements…

At the top with the days of the week, I have now added Velcro and a new sticker that says…Today is. So she can instantly see what day of the week it is.

Likewise, weekends have become important to her. Not only is that the time when her school friends are around more for play dates, but now it is that magical time when she has more of Cookie Monster and we can do things as a family. So we have added pink hearts around those days…and stickers too of course.

The days have always been divided loosely into morning, afternoon, evening and night…but she wanted to define those better. It was a great learning opportunity to talk about how the days are shorter now that it is winter…and will get longer in summer. This is something that ALWAYS messes with her internal body clock.

So we decided to use not just hours of the day but events to define them. Because she goes around the clock with her sleep, we did have to define the beginning and end points as 9 AM and 10 PM. This is important for things like jumping on her trampoline…for the neighbor’s sake. In the end, we came up with this:

  • 9 AM to lunch time = Morning
  • Lunch until 3 or 4 PM = Afternoon
  • Then until tea/dinner/supper time = Evening
  • Tea time until 10 PM = Night

Thing is that you can spend a lot of money on one of these things. But we had great fun making one that it personalized to us. We used:

  • An old whiteboard (I think we had gotten it out of the bin even)
  • Poster board in pink of course
  • Photos of all the people and places that are important to her…she took many of them herself…a few we had to get off the internet because they won’t allow you to take pics.
  • A laminator (priceless for home ed)
  • Velcro
  • Markers and stickers

It only took a couple of hours to make…and has lasted years. Plus this way you can change the stickers as you need to. Linda’s pic became Regina’s and now Mog’s. The old gym was replaced with the LC2. Same with old London friends and new Swansea ones.

Now when PanKwake says…Mommy, what are we doing today? I reply…Look at your schedule.

One warning though…DON’T put up anything that you are not reasonably certain about. Changes in schedules are traumatic for those on the autistic spectrum be that high-functioning, Asperger’s or PDA.

A visual schedule is a relatively quick, expensive, and fun Home Ed activity for the whole family. And makes learning the days of the week easier too. Give it a try yourself. Make it customized for your family and needs…

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