I mentioned in my last post that Taylor's sensory issues have become much more prominent in the last 6 months or so. I'll be blogging more about Sensory Processing Disorder as I have time, but for now I want to share a tool I developed for us to have more structure and less meltdowns in our day.
Taylor is a child who thrives on control. I know all children benefit from structure, but for Taylor, when her routine is out of whack and she doesn't know what to expect next, it sets her up for anxiety, uncertainty and horrible behavior. We had an occupational therapy evaluation last week to help us diagnose and treat the Sensory Processing Disorder that we see emerging with Taylor. One of the suggestions the OT had, was to have more structure in our days. The caveat, of course, being that all kids need time for freedom and free play.
I've been wanting to create a routine chart and a behavioral/reward system for Taylor for quite some time, to give her an added sense of control over her day. So, after looking at various resources, I found Sparkle Box. They offer 1000's of free printables. While most of their resources as aimed at teachers and education, they also have a section for parents and homeschooling. I printed off their daily routine cards, and cut out the ones that apply to us. I then used my Xyron machine and laminated each of the cards.
I included a heading that identifies the day of the week, under that I added what time of day/routine we were working on: Morning, Afterschool, Bedtime. Finally, I went through our routine and the basics of what needed to be done at each time of day and wrote it out on paper to help me organize the cards. This also made me realize that I need to make or find other cards for activities that weren't included in the set I printed. For example, I'm working on having Taylor take more responsibility for household chores, so I need cards that say "set the table" and "fold laundry" and "clean up toys". I also need to create some custom cards that include photos of her medications (asthma and allergy) and some of her sensory activities. You can see from the photo above that we don't have a picture to show the task of getting dressed. We'll be adding that!
Once I had the cards organized, I added velcro dots to the chart and the cards. I was able to determine that at this point, each of our routines has at most, 6 steps, so their are 6 velcro stickers that stay on the board and the cards are attached and removed as the routine is completed.
Other ways she can earn star stickers is by following her rules, and then there is opportunity for us to give her stickers for random good behavior. This makes us more aware of catching her being good. After a week of accumulating lots of stars, on Fridays she will get to choose one thing that she wants: either McDonald's, Wendy's, Dairy Queen or Starbucks. Now, I'm really not fond of offering food as rewards, but when Taylor outgrew her food allergies, we got in the bad habit of often grabbing fast food on the way home from school. This soon turned into her expecting fast food everyday. When I refused her requests, a major tantrum would ensue. So, the new rule is she can have fast food once a week, only on Fridays and this eliminates the daily battle.
I also added a calendar to the chart so we can see upcoming events and talk about them, count down the days until they happen, etc. Finally, I added a place for reminders and important notes/papers. Our fridge is not magnetic and so we can't use it as our central command center. This bulletin board is a great place to keep track of all the little things that I need to see or they get forgotten.
I'm sure I'll end up making changes to the board as we figure out what works for us. But, so far, Taylor loves the board and she's responding really well to the structure and knowing what's going to happen next.
A few weeks ago, during a very trying time of behavior problems, I wrote out a set of rules for Taylor. I decided to include the rules on her routine board and under the rules, I added a star behavior chart that I printed from Sparkle Box. I then purchased star stickers at the dollar store. There are 10 spaces for stars on the chart each day. At this point, Taylor gets one star for following each of her routines without a big fight. I give a little bit of leeway with "not a big fight" because I recognize that I have a very, very strong-willed child. I also like that she's assertive and I recognize that one of the rules she struggles with the most, is rule #1 Do as you are told. She's just not that compliant of a child (at least not at home!). That's not her personality. She often needs to do things "her way". So, as long as she follows her routines without a "big" fight, then we're happy and she gets a sticker.
Our system has quickly become an activity in itself. Taylor likes going to the board to see what's up next, she takes the cards down once she's completed the task, and she's responding really well to the star sticker system.
Do you have a system like this for your child? I'd love to hear how you manage routines and behavior in your home.