Children, Time Management, and Autism: The Schedule Book

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I have been thinking a lot about children and time management in relation to a project I'm working on for my son.  The basic premise is that children thrive when they have a structured environment, and that their structured environment doesn't have blank spaces in it.  That means the current project takes as long as the time it takes to get to the next project.  In fact, if you think about it, the same could be said about most people's scheduling habits, except we as Adults tend to have "background noise" tasks to do (check email, Twitter, Facebook, News, email again, etc.). 

So in my musings, a schedule for children in general should be a start point, and a finish point ONLY if they have something else to do.  If you don't do this, children tend to get a little rowdy and bored because they need at that time to figure out what to do on their own.  That way they have a flexible schedule that will give them time to complete a task or series of tasks.  This doesn't work 100% of the time, but for a general schedule option, it works out pretty well. 

So how does this relate to Autism?  Autistic children are in desperate need of set schedules, and often get irate and have melt-downs if they do not follow the schedule.  Scheduling for an Autistic child or person needs to have a beginning and an end, and the end needs to lead into another part of the schedule.  "Background noise" time doesn't really work for an Autistic child, and they often get lost within their task at hand instead of moving on to their next project. 

Now, let me qualify these observations:  they were made after attending my son's Preschool class and seeing how structured the class time really is.  Students, even if they finish their tasks early, were given a new task to perform that was within the scope of the task time.  So, for instance, if they finished with Art, they would move on to Book Reading.  If they didn't want to play with the blocks, they had time at the swing.  It all depended on how the zones were broken up. 

Now, move that to a non-structured play environment, and my son becomes excitable and quickly floats from one project to another.  He doesn't have a schedule to follow, and so often misses important tasks (like using the potty).  So structure is something that he needs regularly. 

And that is part of my current project.  I'm creating a Schedule tool that will provide structure based on the beginning of the next task, instead of the beginning and end of a task.  Many children with Autism have "Schedule books" that they reference and use, and my son works well with his at School.  Hopefully this project will help him work well with it at home and at daycare as well.