Routine is truly the foundation for communication, concept development, and education for students with a combined vision and hearing loss. In fact, almost every single one of us benefits from daily routines. We tend to wake up at the same time and get ready for the day the same way. We eat lunch around the same time, and some of us even reserve days of the week for regular errands like grocery shopping. As humans, we feel comforted in knowing that our activities have a beginning, middle, and end. When the distance senses (vision and hearing) are impacted, the world can seem unpredictable and shocking. This unpredictability can not only increase anxiety, but can make it difficult for students to find opportunities to communicate and engage with others. For example, a sighted and hearing child is able to gather information about their day through their distance senses. These children auditorily and visually collect information about their environment by observing their parents getting dressed, starting the car, and overhearing conversations between adults. In some instances, these children may even be able to determine where they are going and what they will do before they are even told by an adult. Unlike a typically-developing child, a child with a dual sensory loss is reliant on peers and adults for information about the environment.
Routines are an excellent way to provide that access, and there are countless simple ways in which a parent can integrate routine throughout their child’s day. Routines can be infused into a specific activity (i.e. meal time, bath time, bed time) or they can be used to structure the entire day through a calendar or schedule system. Whichever you decide to implement, we have a few resources and ideas to get you started:
Beginning, Middle, and Ends
Within any activity your child engages in throughout their day, make an effort to clearly communicate that it will have a beginning, middle, and end. Daily chores are a great place to start. Not only does this strategy provide your child with the understanding that a (possibly unpleasurable) activity will end, but it also gives your child the chance to retell what happened when it is finished. You can communicate this to your child with hand-made tactile graphics, verbal language, tactile sign language, or any AAC device your child uses. For example, when completing the task of laundry you might explain the concept to your child by saying, “first, we will collect the dirty clothes. Then we will put the dirty clothes in the machine, add the detergent, and push the start button. After, we are finished”. There endless ways to make this a fun addition to the day!
Infuse Routine Throughout Regularly Occurring Activities
Routines are regularly occurring activities throughout the day. In reality, any activity your child engages in can become a routine. This includes waking up in the morning, getting ready for the day, meal times, daily activities, chores, exercise, and bedtime. Give your child the opportunity to be fully present in the routine. For example, during bath time routines, allow your child to smell the soap and feel the water before entering the bathtub. When finished allow your child to feel the towel and their fresh clothing. As you move through the steps of the routine, make an effort to narrate each step for your child.
Calendars and Schedule Systems
Creating a daily calendar system or schedule that is accessible to your child is a great way to provide your child with a sense of routine throughout the day. There are so many different ways daily calendars can look. They might be limited to a single day or single activity, and they might be tactile, visual, auditory, or a combination of all three! Some calendar and schedule systems even include a "finished bin", where children can place symbols upon completed activities.