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How to Do Workboxes.

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Woodjie's play therapist helped us get started with workboxes. You might enjoy doing them as well with your autistic child or preschooler.
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First, get a couple of old ice cream containers with lids. You'll also get some sticky-back velcro and cut little signs for "work," break time, and "finished." You can make your own sign or download one from the internet. Mine are laminated, but yours don't have to be as fancy. Oak tag and velcro will do.
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I've loaded each of my boxes with an activity. Puzzles or potato-heads are good examples of what to put inside. You want to find an activity that has a definite beginning and ending. A toy Noah's ark or baby and bottle set, for example, wouldn't quite fit the bill. You want something that the child will understand that he has completed. Sometimes I'll even get the large puzzles with knobs and pictures underneath, and just put the pieces in the bucket.
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We started slowly with making these activities part of Woodjie's routine. The idea is to acclimate Woodjie to a schedule of some kind, and give him a sense of order and "what comes next." We started with one bucket once a day. We're now up to two buckets twice a day. Some day, we are hoping that he will understand a picture schedule and understand things like, TV time comes after lunch. Then we will play and read a book. Next comes dinner. Etc.
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I come into his play area with my strip and the buckets and sing a song to the tune of the "Muffin Man:"
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Ohhhhhh
Do you know what time it is?
What time it is?
What time it is?
Do you know what time it is?
It's time to
WORK.
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He's very excited about this and usually does a little dance and a good hand flap before pulling the "work" icon off and handing it to me. What's next on the schedule? He knows he's to pull the blue dot and "match" it with the blue bucket. We help him affix the velcro ends together and walk him to a plastic picnic table to do his activity.
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One of his activities is to read a book. He used to be very resistant to reading books and would bang his head and throw fits whenever they were presented. Now we can get through several pages, although he will try to squirm and get away after that. What we're trying to do is get him to the very limit without quite going over... and then hope that that limit gets longer and longer as time goes on. So far, with a few regressions here and there, it has really been helpful. Now occasionally he will point to a picture. (This is rare, however.)
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Between boxes is "break time." He's guided to "check the schedule" after completing his first box. He hands me the "break time" icon and I set the timer for three minutes. When the timer goes off, he excitedly turns it off when it's presented to him.
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THIS SOUNDS LIKE HARD WORK, and it is to get started and make a part of your schedule. Then again, here's a child who has never said Mama or Dada, and he is able to do these things with some assistance. It would be wonderful if he were to speak more, but if that isn't possible, I'd at least like a child who understands there is some order in the world and is able to use picture icons. So, we're working on this diligently.
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Usually the second bucket is harder for him to do than the first. I put the easier of the two activities (his puzzle) second on the list because I anticipate this. Just as it's harder for the average worker to continue to put in his best on the job right before quitting time, Woodie has a bit of a hard time toward the end there. Sometimes I'll get a picture of Bob and Larry as a reward and he can trade this for Cheerios. The main thing is to get him to understand that the schedule is his friend, that it makes some sense, and that he can accomplish tasks and receive praise.
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Feel free to ask questions in the comments! I'm excited to share this system with you.

Comments

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this. The old wheels are turning. I have been thinking about doing something like this for Nutkin, and you gave a great detailed explanation.

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  2. This is amazing. What an achievement for your little man. I can't believe any 2 year old can follow this system, but when you think about it, it makes sense. I'm sad for you that you've never heard him say 'mama' and 'dada', but you must be so proud of what he is doing.

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  3. Oh man.... I am so weak when it comes to schedules. I feel so bad about it too. I have always hated schedules ever since I was little. I'm very spontaneous. I KNOW routine is good though. Pray for me in this area. LOL. Also, I use those same ice cream buckets for my own project. My bow making for my girls or for friends. Everything goes in it for use of making the bows. It's really handy. :)

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