When Kelly Robinson scaled back her work in the United States Air Force to care for her toddler, Rachel, she had visions of peaceful, cozy days full of bonding.
In reality, every “transition” became a struggle. Nap time required cajoling. Turning off the TV caused a massive meltdown. Even getting dressed in the morning was a battle.
“… I left active duty military and now I’m a stay-at-home mom and I’m going, ‘Why?’ It was easier to march troops than it was to get my daughter to put her socks on,” says this mom from East Longmeadow, Mass.
But, she says, a simple idea broke this pattern, a solution she thinks will help other parents.
“It’s just one of those things that pops into your head one day: ‘Maybe if I use pictures, I can communicate things to her better’,” says Robinson, explaining how she stayed up late, printing pictures off the Internet to create a make-shift visual schedule with velcro and paste.
“The next morning I put it up, just to see (if we could) get through our morning routine without tears, without fighting, and it was instant success.”
Robinson calls this approach “cognitive clarity.”When a child can see his day mapped out before him, in a concrete sequence made of movable squares that say “brush teeth,” “eat breakfast” and so on, he can grasp each step while looking forward to a goal of “play time” or “story hour” at the end.
Robinson scoured the Internet and found a lot of instructions about how to make a visual schedule, but didn’t see many options to just simply buy one ready-made, an important factor for a busy parent.
“I felt like, if there were other moms out there going through this that they had to know about it.” She made a new prototype with magnets, so every day could start with a clean slate, found a manufacturer and a new career.
She launched a website for her product, “SchKIDules,” (www.schkidules.com) in early 2010 and soon started making sales and hearing from many parents, especially those with children who have special needs.
“I realized just how much children with autism and Asperger’s rely on visuals to get through the day,” she says, noting that the use of magnets eliminates the loud sound of velcro that can bother a child with sensory processing disorders. Especially during Autism Awareness Month, she feels passionate about reaching out to these moms and dads: “Every child is different. Some don’t need it at all. Some, it will change your whole life.”
Robinson is thankful that the schedule helped her make peace with Rachel.
“It wasn’t just a nicety. It was a massive stress reduction. It was a better relationship for my daughter and I,” she says. “I just want more people out there to find my website who need this kind of thing and go, ‘Aaah, there it is’.”