I now use schedules with my kids but before this we used a Now and Next Board. It was one of the first things I was advised to do after my son was diagnosed as autistic. I have to admit I wasn’t very good with visuals in the early days but now I see how much they help my kids to understand what is happening.
Using visuals allows my boys to understand what we are doing, what I am asking or telling them. They both have communication challenges which makes it even more important that we use visual aids.
Increasing visuals led to less challenging behaviour in both my kids. This helped me see that much of the issues we were having was because of anxiety and not understanding what was happening or expected.
Now and Next boards are also referred to as First and Then boards or Now, Next and Then.
A Now and Next board is a very simple visual aid. It is a visual with Now on the left and next on the right and space for a picture of what is happening now and next.
I use the Picture Exchange Communication System so use these pictures but you can use photos or any symbols.
All you need is two icons next to each other with one saying now (the activity you are about to do) and the other saying next (the activity that will follow). Typically you will use them to show a work activity or something they may need more convincing to do followed by an activity the child wants to do.
This works fine on a piece of paper or white board so it is easy to make one up quickly when needed. Below you can see how we use a white board to show now and next when doing Attention Autism.
How to use a Now and Next Board
You will need some icons or photos to use on your board. It is very easy to make up your own cards. A simple board will be printed out on paper or card, laminated with velcro to stick your pictures on. If you are good at drawing a white board may be easier.
Before you start your activity show the board to the child. Point to the activity under Now and say ‘now drawing’ then point to the next activity and say ‘next snack’. Always use simple clear language and the same vocabulary and use emphasis on the words now and next. This will make it clear and easier to follow, over time the child will understand what now and next means if they don’t already.
Once you have completed the now activity you can either remove it or cross it out whilst saying ‘drawing finished, now snack’. The key here is being very clear, using simple language and visuals and using the board consistently.
My youngest is always telling me the first activity is finished before we start if it’s something he isn’t keen on.
You may need to use some additional rewards if you are struggling to implement the board. However if you are using activities your child enjoys for the next activity that should be reward enough. Garden, iPad and TV are usually good ones.
Who would benefit from a Now & Next board?
Any child that struggles with transition – moving from one activity to another will really benefit from this. Children who have communication or attention difficulties will find it really helpful to understand what is happening.
It also works really well for children who just don’t want to participate in certain activities. For these children at first the next activities will need to be highly motivating.
When you first start using the board try to just have fun activities for now and next and introduce things they don’t want to do later. It may take time for a child to understand the board. Also if a child becomes upset when using it try to see if they are upset by the activity as this will be more likely than having an issue with the visual.
They are really good for most autistic children who are often very visual and good with clear routines.
Free Printable Now and Next Board
Using Visual Schedules
Once you have mastered the now and next board you can increase the schedule. At first you may just want to add in then so the board is Now, Next and Then. We moved to using a simple strip in a pencil case that would show 3-4 activities, I found this of most use when we were going out and still use it now.
We now have several schedules that we use. A weekly schedule is particularity good when a child is going to different places each day. I would have a separate weekly schedule that simply shows the days of the week and where they will be e.g. home, school or granny’s house. This will be useful now as we are going back to different routines after lockdown. You can also use play schedules.
The Tiimo app and web calendar is great for setting out your week and having a visual schedule on your phone. Having a schedule on your phone makes it much easier to use outside of the house. This also helps with a child who struggles with an adult telling them to move from one activity to the next as the app will do that for you.
The PECS schedule kit is getting a lot of use in our house while we are home learning.
Have you tried a now & next board? Do you use any visual schedules?