By: Carmen Willings
Putting together an appropriate program for all students begins with creating a consistent and predictable daily schedule. Creating a consistent schedule will help the students anticipate what is going to happen next. By developing patterns for regular activities, the students will anticipate events and thereby be less startled by them.
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A consistent schedule will help prevent inappropriate behaviors by helping the student anticipate the change. The schedule will help the student to recognize, understand and apply vocabulary knowledge of object, picture, symbol, and words. A consistent schedule will help teach the structure of space and the sequence of time. For students who require sensory input, you will also need to embed opportunities for students to have their sensory needs met in order to prepare them for the next task. There are additional considerations that are unique to students with visual impairments that can help them access all areas of the routine schedule along with incorporating concepts that will benefit all students in your program.
Prior to Student's Arrival
Until you become familiar with the morning checklist, if your mornings can be chaotic, or if you have any distractions in the morning, it is VERY helpful to have a morning checklist. This is also helpful for substitutes! Prior to the student's arrival:
Planning the Schedule
When creating the schedule, it is important to create a balance between teacher-directed and child-initiated activities. It is also beneficial to alternate large group, small group, and independent activities.
Make a point to greet the students and tell them any expectations outside of their normal routine. If the student needs assistance getting from the bus or carpool lane, ensure the student's safety, yet encourage them to travel as independently as possible following the guidance and direction of the Orientation and Mobility Specialist. The goal should be to provide fading support in order for the student to learn independent travel skills.
Once in the room (or other designated area), encourage the student’s to hang up their coats in their own cubicles, hooks or lockers. Morning arrival can be a hectic time of the day, but it can also be a great time to naturally work on many skill areas. Encourage students to discriminate their own name on cubicles or their locker number from that of others. Promote independence by encouraging the students to practice disengaging fasteners to remove coats and locate hood or loop to hang on hook within their locker or cubicle. Have the students unzip their own backpacks and remove communication folders, etc and either have them deliver them to you or place them in a designated file with their name.
Once the students have removed their coats and unpacked their backpacks, have the students sign in on a sign in board or attendance chart. Depending on student’s ability, the student could match their name to the name on the chart; copy the letters in their name by printing or using letter tiles or magnets; or signing their name. Students can practice matching letters to form their name (or developing a signature) as well as practice independence in activities of daily living and early work skills. This is a natural time to practice signatures which is important for future responsibility and independence. For students with low vision, have the student’s name in bold print. You may want to use another association such as a texture, color, or shape. For students that are blind or functionally blind and not yet reading braille, use a texture and shape paired with their name in braille.
Prior to departure, encourage the students to pack their own backpacks including placing any communication in their folders. Expect the students to put their coats or jackets on with as much independence as possible. This is another natural opportunity to work on engaging zippers, snapping snaps, buttoning buttons, placing arms in sleeves and putting hats and mittens on. When the students leave, have the students sign out by moving their name back to “out”.