Georgina Grahame has had 8 years experience teaching both mainstream and special education. She has created her own website www.sensupport.com which makes learning resources to help children with Special Educational Needs. Here, she gives her advice on ways to support children in your own childcare setting using visual timetables.
During your time as a childcare professional, you are going to come across children with special educational needs. It may be that a child has a diagnosis of some need or other, or just that you have concerns over some area of their development. Whichever it is, there are a few simple things you can do to help create a positive experience for that child, his or her parents, the other children around them, and the staff working with them.
The importance of routine
One common occurring theme that we see in many children is the need for routine. Many parents tell us that their child loves visiting their childcare setting and are far more settled there than at home. This is often because that setting provides the child with a structure to their day that may otherwise be lacking. You also often find children that desperately need to know what’s happening next in their day. This doesn’t just apply to children with special educational needs – many children not just want, but need to know what’s happening next in their day, as do adults! In particular, the need for structure and routine is found in children with autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, ADHD and speech and language delay.
Structuring the day
A very simple way to help support a child with this need is to have a visual timetable in your setting. This is a set of symbols, each displaying one activity that happens in the child’s day. These symbols are then displayed in the order that they are going to happen. By displaying the timetable visually children of a very young age are able to see what is going to happen next and, if they want to, they can keep checking back. Should you have a child who really struggles with changes to the routine, you can then display a change visually so that they are prepared for what is going to happen.
Don’t worry about displaying too many symbols at once. Children will only deal with a few symbols at a time. So, for example, you could begin the day by displaying ‘breakfast, free play, arts and crafts, snack’. Then during snack time display the next set of symbols.
Benefits for all children
The important thing to remember about extra resources such as these is that they are going to benefit most of the children in your setting, whether or not they have got special educational needs. If you suspect that a child has speech and language delay or is on the autistic spectrum, or if you just have a child who seems a little anxious about their day, then try adding a visual timetable to your setting. You’re not going to do any harm and chances are you are going to do a lot of good!