Visual schedules can be a life saver for parents of children with special needs, especially when children have autism, anxieties, PTSD, Reactive Attachment Disorder and other trauma related issues. Whether they're used for daily routines, a school day routines, or a major event, a visual schedule can help a special needs child function and remain calm, when used appropriately and consistently.
Our family has used various types of visual schedules since Dinomite was a toddler. All of our kiddos have benefited from them. Their favorites include our daily visual schedule and our Christmas visual schedule. You can receive your FREE Christmas Visual Schedule for Kids today!
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We spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at home alone, just the six of us due to the special needs of the kiddos. So that we don't cause unnecessary anxiety, meltdowns, aggression, and rages,we try to keep the day as low key as possible . However, even a low key day can be challenging, especially when it's Christmas. The kiddos' daily routines and schedules are changed.
We spend several days preparing the kiddos for the upcoming changes in their routine. A social story is read, and we review our Christmas Visual Schedule Flip Book.
Our visual schedule hasn't always taken the form of a flip book. When the kiddos were little we used a pocket chart. It hung on our dining room wall. We discussed the day's events every morning during breakfast, including holidays.
I laminated 3x3'' PECS images with labels to represent each aspect of our day. Cards were stored in photo boxes. It was a great system until the kiddos out grew it.
Introducing the Visual Schedule Flip Book
The kiddos started to participate in activities outside of the home. They needed a visual schedule that provided both visual and tactile input, and one they could bring with them where ever they went. None of the kiddos enjoyed the PECS images anymore. They wanted true to life images they could relate to. This is how the visual schedule flip book was born.
It didn't take long before it became all the rage at our house. Everyone wanted one, especially those that were holiday themed. The visual schedule flip books were so fun to look through and triggered such happy memories from years past.
I love the flip books because they provide opportunities to teach the kiddos about flexibility. If for some reason we are unable to complete a task on a card, we simply undo the clasp, and move the card to a different spot. The kiddos are able to adapt to the new schedule and move forward with their day knowing they'll still be able to do everything.
Flip books are also easy to save from year to year for holidays and other special occasions. I put them with our holiday decorations stored in the attic. When I bring a bin out in preparation for the upcoming holiday, the visual schedule flip book is right there.
Our Christmas Visual Schedule Flip Book
As we grow closer to the holiday season, I thought it would be fun to share our Christmas Day routine and schedule. A visual schedule for the day has been created in flip book form.
- The kiddos wake up on their own and play until we come tell them it's time to go downstairs.
- Stockings are filled and waiting for the kiddos in their "special spots." All items are unwrapped. Special spots provide comfort for those who may be anxious Christmas morning. They provide kiddos with clear visual boundaries as to where they'll sit and open up gifts on Christmas morning. Kiddos also see their one large Christmas gift unwrapped next to their stocking. No candy or sweets are put in stockings.
- Breakfast comes next. We've learned that a healthy breakfast at the start of the day helps prevent meltdowns before lunch.
- Once everyone is finished eating we open presents. Kiddos are in their "special spots." I usually hand gifts out with Dinomite's help. Everyone take turns opening gifts one at a time until all are finished.
- Christmas pick up is next. This includes picking up packaging and kiddos taking their gifts upstairs to their rooms. If gifts stay downstairs one is sure to be broken before the day is done.
- Kiddos get dressed, brush teeth, and brush their hair.
- Then they finally have time to play with some of their new toys until lunch.
- Our Christmas Day lunch is a relish platter, with meat, cheese, crackers, fruits, vegetables and dips. All are very easy foods to prepare.
- Naps are always necesary on Christmas and come right after lunch. The anxiety leading up to the day is enough to keep everyone on edge and cause some to not sleep well. An afternoon naps helps us avoid meltdowns before dinner.
- When everyone's awake, we all get our snow gear on.
- It's time to play outside. We always hope for snow to make the experience extra fun.
- Once inside, we warm up with some hot chocolate and a few Christmas cookies.
- Then Renae starts preparing Christmas Dinner while Jason spends time playing with the kiddos.
- Besides playing with new toys, the kiddos and Jason also have fun with board games.
- Each of the kiddos takes turns helping me with dinner.
- While Mommy sets the table Jason reads with the kiddos.
- Finally it's time for Christmas dinner!
- After dinner we turn off all the lights but the Christmas tree lights and watch a Christmas movie.
- Once the movie is over the kiddos change into their pajamas.
- They brush their teeth and brush their hair.
- Then it's off to bed.
I have created a flip chart card for every step in our Christmas Day. When the kiddos use the flip book, they feel calm knowing what's coming next.
Receive Your Free Christmas Visual Schedule Flip Book Printable Today!
I have provided you with the link to our Christmas visual schedule below. The printable includes all of the individual cards we use and more. If you notice that I am lacking a card you need for your own Christmas visual schedule, please leave a comment below describing the event I'm missing. I would love to update the printable so it works for your family.
If you're interested in the free printable, click the link below.
Visual schedules for holidays are discussed in detail in a new book called, Holidays and PTSD: A Parent's Guide to Survival, written by Jason and myself. It is now available for purchase in ebook form! (Paperback and Kindle versions will be available for purchase next week.)
If you're interested in learning more about how visual schedules can help your child with PTSD, anxiety, or other trauma related issues, you'll want to buy this ebook today! It includes amazing resources and support for parens who are craving it.
If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy the posts below.
This post is part of the Parenting Children with Special Needs Series. If you're interested in reading more surviving the holidays with special needs children, be sure to visit the links below.
Surviving the Holidays with Special Needs | Natural Beach Living
Free Christmas Visual Schedule for Kids | Every Star is Different
Navigating Trauma and PTSD Over The Holidays | STEAM Powered Family
Holiday Myths & Autism | My Home Truths
Visual Christmas Schedule for Special Needs Kids | Life Over C’s
Surviving the Holidays with a Child with Anxiety | The Chaos and The Clutter
Questions Special Needs Parents Face During the Holidays | This Outnumbered Mama
26 Holiday Survival Tips for Autism Families | And Next Comes L
The Year That I Made Santa Claus Cry | Kori at Home
Conquering the Holidays: They Don't Need to be Perfect | 3 Dinosaurs
Why I Canceled Christmas: What You Need to Know about Surviving Holidays | Carrots Are Orange