Learning that activities are made up of smaller steps is an important concept for all children to learn. The notion of first, second, third, etc. is not present when a child is born, but they develop this concept very early. If the child experiences a series of events in a consistent sequence day after day, they begin to anticipate events coming about in an order. The ability to understand sequence terms like “first” is not expected of children until about 48 months though they may develop that concept by the age of two. Children do learn the concepts of “now” and “later” and “next” much sooner. Developing an understanding of a sequence is an important developmental milestone.
Calendars help to teach sequencing of events during the day or some time period for the child. Still there is a need to define time in smaller increments. This is when we use a sequence calendar or box.
Sequencing boxes are one way we can help children who are deafblind or visually and multiply impaired understand the order in which things will happen. Sequence boxes are used within our routines as a way to delineate or break the steps of that routine into separate, smaller chunks. In essence, we are taking a larger moment in time – the routine – and breaking it into smaller, more manageable segments. You can think of this as you would if you were following a recipe; to accomplish the larger task of baking a chocolate layer cake, you need to break it down into the smaller, more manageable steps of the recipe. By following the recipe we are able to label the ingredients, list the steps in such a way that we are following a sequence (or a clear beginning, middle, and end, which is something all routines should have), and come out with a fantastic cake to eat in the end.
Utilizing activity routines we can take the entire activity that is represented in the child’s calendar and divide it into smaller chunks of time. We can label each step using an object symbol, tactile symbol, printed word, or picture, depending on the child’s communication forms. The child is able to put each step’s symbol into a finished box and tactually find the next step in the box after he/she learns to move sequentially from left to right between the dividers.
Instructional Strategies Menu
This tactual representation of the sequence of actions involved in an activity helps the child secure the memory better in his/her mind. This smaller steps are easier to anticipate and reduce the demand on the child to perform the task. The sequence box also allows the student to see a clear beginning, middle and end of the activity. This is especially important if the activity is not a preferred activity such as brushing teeth.
A sequencing box can look like the one pictured above: a box with multiple slots in it or it might resemble a recipe written out or brailled. It depends on what the student needs.
By breaking the larger activity into smaller pieces/chunks that we can label each step and put it into a repeatable sequence. This also allows for an expansion of language and conversation, and provide more manageable time frames for those kids who need it.
This video shows a class making dog biscuits. The students, Tania and Nate, are both deafblind. They shopped for the ingredients the day before they baked, and the students were going to take the biscuits home to give to their own dogs on the following weekend.
Video: Tania Makes Dog Biscuits
You will see Tania using a portable grocery list, made up of tactile symbols, of the items she has already purchased. The sequence box breaks the cooking activity into small steps represented by the ingredients in the order they will be used (or recipe) for of the activity “cooking dog biscuits”.
Techniques to note in this video:
- Hand-under-hand communication strategies
- Pairing vocalizations with sign and symbols
- Group activity and student interaction
Skills infused into this activity include:
- Counting and labeling
- Receptive and expressive communication
As you can see each slot in the sequence box breaks the activity of making dog biscuits into smaller “chunks” or segments. By doing this, we are making the larger task more manageable. It is now easier to add greater detail, which allows for more in-depth conversations, and we have our beginning-middle-end of the activity outlined in the steps. In essence, we are giving more detail in condensed doses, within the structure of the routine, and while we are actually doing the routine.