A recent experience gave me a powerful reminder that the children we work with need to feel calm in order to learn and develop their communication skills.
We were about to fly to South America on an evening flight. I’d planned to come home from work and travel to the airport with my partner. But for some technical reason, we couldn’t check in online. Panic! Suddenly the plan needed to change.
When my partner suggested a new plan—going directly from work to the airport—I started mumbling incomprehensibly about not having the right shoes on and my ID badge. I said it was impossible and insisted that the original plan was better. The more anxious and angry I got, the harder it was to think rationally.
Looking back, I realise I needed a visual timetable! If my partner had used symbols to talk me through the sequence of events, it would have reduced both my anxiety and my difficult behaviour. I would have been able to think more clearly, see that the steps were logical, and realise they allowed me to reach my goal: getting to the airport on time.
The same principle applies to the children we work with: they need to feel calm in order to learn and develop their communication skills. We should take the time to prepare a visual timetable for each session, to minimise anxiety and create the right conditions for learning.
In one of her workshops, Gina Davies reminded me that visual support can be quick to produce and low-tech. She demonstrated using an A4 sized whiteboard to produce a “now” and “next” style timetable in front of the children. This can also support the development of early literacy skills if you hold the board so the children can see you drawing and writing.
At the other end of the technology scale there must be visual timetable style apps on the iPhone or iPad. Have you used any? I’d love some recommendations.