In pictures on the left, the student is using the first-then schedule as his schedule for the day. In the top picture, you see a binder with first work then pack up. For this student, we started working with him using a full-day schedule that was on the wall. In working with him for a day, we realized that he was struggling with the number of transitions this created for him and checking his schedule became an antecedent for problem behaviors. Each time he had to go to the wall, check the schedule, go to the check-in board and put on the visual, it was difficult for him to understand the process.
The second day we worked with him, we used this first-then schedule. The schedule itself was on the outside of a notebook and the events of his day were on sheets inside the notebook in order. This allowed the staff working with him to quickly switch out the visuals for each transition. At first we started with the scheduled activity being followed by a reinforcer (e.g., first work with teacher, then play dough). Over time he was able to manage the schedule with just the events of the day and eventually he was able to go into the notebook and change his own schedule. This greatly increased his independence throughout the day.
When we first gave him the notebook, the look of comprehension that came over his face was amazing to see. It seemed as if he was saying, “Oh! Now I get it!” His behavior was significantly better using this schedule than the first one we tried. The picture below is a similar situation and you can see how we stored the schedule on the wall. This student was not able to independently manage his schedule and he did best when only shown 2 pictures at a time rather than a full-day schedule.
For more complex learners this often is a great place to start. A word of caution, however. Don’t start an entire class on first-then notebook schedules at the same time when they haven’t been taught to use them. We tried that one time and were constantly looking for the schedules because the students weren’t independent at keeping track of them. In short, it was disaster and the next day we broke it down and just started with 2 of the students and then added more as the first ones became independent. You can also use first-then boards to show students what will happen after a desired activity. Helping students to know what is coming next sometimes helps them to make the transition more easily.
And finally, I promised you a freebie! You can use the board with a variety of visuals and you may want to use a previous freebie of the communication visuals from this post as your “then.” Simply download the board, laminate it, and put velcro on it to hold the pictures.
This is part of an ongoing series of posts on different types and uses for visual schedules. you can check out the visual schedule series here.