Posted in Autism, Down syndrome, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, Education and Special Needs, Feeding, Personal Hygiene, Toileting, Parenting Special Needs, Resources for Special Needs

Blog #164~Why Use a Visual Schedule?


Blog #164~Why Use a Visual Schedule?

We all hate getting lost, it can be aggravating  and nervewracking. That’s why we use maps to help navigate our way.


The same is true for a child with special needs who lacks verbal and cognitive skills.  Providing a visual schedule allows your child to see what is going to happen in their day. My son, Nick is 22 years old and has Down syndrome and autism. Visual schedules provide many benefits for him to travel smoothly, through his daily routine.

Nick fist bump AID

Benefits of Using a Visual Schedule:

*Provides structure and predictability by showing a child what is coming up next.  This greatly reduces anxiety and builds confidence.

*Helps with transitions from one activity to the next.

*Picture form is easier to understand than verbal instructions.  Children with autism often comprehend pictures and/or written directions easier than verbal cues alone.

*Helps to teach sequence of events especially when using words, “first”, “next”, and “last”.

*Expedites learning routines and fosters independence in self-help/hygiene skills and household/school jobs.


*Helps with time management and literacy development by reading through pictures and words associated with them.

*Improves conversation skills by giving a visual framework of what they did and what was their favorite part of the end of the day.

*Assists teachers and caregivers with routine changes, when things get out of sync.  It also helps to introduce a new and/or different activity.


Visual schedules come in all shapes and forms and many are available in Google images.  You can adjust the length and type of images, (PECS-Picture Exchange System, photos, written words,  iPad/ smart phone apps) to what your child will most easily understand.


It’s best to start with a small routine and adapt the schedules based on your child’s needs and abilities. Try pairing a non-preferred activity (first) followed by a preferred choice (next).  Your child’s speech therapist can be of great help in creating picture sequences that would fit their needs.

Going through a visual schedule with your child, helps them understand what is going to happen, and what behavior you expect.

Here is one we use when going to the mall.  Note the visual below has going to the stores (first)  and Taco Bell (next) as the preferred activity.


Sequence for going to church:

photo (106)

Full Day Schedule: ( Note, this could be broken up in separate pieces if this would be to overwhelming).


Using visual schedules have been shown to be helpful for children and adults with special needs by giving them more control on what goes on in their daily lives.  It provides the road map to navigate for a smooth ride through their daily routines.  That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 🙂

Follow Nick:

@Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism on Facebook and Pinterest

#nickdsautism on Instagram

@tjunnerstall on Twitter




Posted in Autism, Autism Safety and Wandering, Down syndrome, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism

Blog #163~Safety & Your Special Needs Child


Blog #163~Safety and Your Special Needs Child

I’ve written a few posts about elopement in past blogs. The terror of losing a child is unlike anything else.  My son Nick has Down syndrome and autism, and I know first hand how that feels.  It is essential to put safety measures in place to prevent wandering/elopement.  This week’s blog is about safety and prevention measures from a police officer’s perspective.


Recently at the National Association for Down Syndrome (NADS) retreat, a presentation was given by a NADS member, who is a police officer.  Some of the key points made were on safety and  wandering/elopement prevention.  Seatbelts alone don’t always work for older kids with special needs.  There are many seat belt locks available as well as bigger car seats for children over 65 pounds, which have  5 point restraint.


There were several suggestions given to promote safety, and prevent elopement.  Putting stop icons on all doors, using door/window alarms,  and changing the locks or moving them higher.  It might also be necessary, (especially if your child is non-verbal), to invest in a tracking device/bracelet and an identification bracelet.  Some police departments have tracking devices available.  For more detailed information on this, type in “Blog #142” in the search engine on the top, right side.  Blog #142, gives specifics on elopement and autism.

caretrak bracelet

Nick wears a medic alert bracelet that stays securely on.  Information on the back includes his name, medic alert number, Down syndrome, autism and non-verbal.


Check with your local police department about getting in the data base to provide more detailed information about your child with special needs.  Here in Illinois, the Premise Alert was mandated, in 2009. The Illinois Premise Alert Program (Public Act 96-0788) provides for Public Safety Agencies in the State of Illinois to allow people with special needs to provide information to Police, Fire and EMS personnel to be kept in a database.

In addition to the  Illinois Premise Alert Program, a new program aims to take 9-1-1 a step further. Smart911 is a program that supplies 9-1-1 operators with detailed personal information, including names of family members, photos, allergies, pets and more.


Smart911 is available in participating dispatch centers across the United States.Smart911 enhances the information that a 911 call can provide and helps first responders help you faster during an emergency.  Citizens create an online profile through a secure website at This profile contains information that might be important in an emergency. If you place a 911 call anywhere within the county, your profile is displayed to the 911 dispatcher at the Emergency Communications Center, and the information is relayed to first responders.  Smart 911 is a national service that is available free to everyone. The service can be especially valuable to households with young children, seniors, or anyone with a physical or mental disability.

It is essential to take precautions to promote the utmost safety and security for you child with special needs.  Especially if they are non-verbal and have no concept of how to keep themselves out of harms way.  That’s what is in my noggin this week.


Follow Nick:

Down Syndrome With A Slice of Autism on Facebook and Pinterest

#nickdsautism on Instagram

@tjunnerstall on Twitter