What is a visual schedule?
Visual schedules are a series of pictures, drawings or symbols which help to break down tasks into smaller steps or communicate any period of time – for example a morning, a day or week.
Learning to use a visual schedule can take some time. Initially, prompts and cues will be necessary to help children understand their purpose and use. Gradually this support is reduced to develop increased independence for children.
Why are visual schedules helpful?
Visual schedules are helpful for all individuals however they are particularly useful for children who may have difficulty with planning and organisation or display anxiety about what is happening in their day. It can also help children see when their preferred activities are happening – which can be used as a motivator to complete non-preferred tasks.
- Help build routine and structure and clear expectations into a child’s day.
- Can increase a child’s independence by assisting them to take responsibility for their time and routine without the need for constant prompting and reminding.
- Help to reinforce and supplement verbal directions.
- Provide predictability to help children transition between activities within their school day.
- Can help reduce anxiety and confusion about what will happen in the day.
- Help children keep track of time (countdown timers can also be used) and stay focused on the task at hand.
- Can help motivate children to move to the next activity or earn an end game.
Types of Visual Schedules:
There are different types of visual schedules and many fun and creative ways that they can be presented.
To determine the type of visual schedule which is right for you and your child you need to consider the child’s attention span, level of understanding and age. A younger child they may benefit from more simple schedules with pictures and fewer words. Older students may cope with a larger schedule for example outlining the full day or week with more words.
Here are some examples:
- First and then
- A schedule or checklist which breaks down the steps involved in an activity such as “collect materials, cut out, glue into workbook”.
- A schedule which shows activities to complete in a session/day – for example using a laminated page with finish envelope at the end or having a laminated page with check boxes to tick off.
- A weekly timetable for those activities which remain consistent
Tips and Helpful hints to consider when making your schedule:
- Decide what you are trying to communicate. For example, is the schedule to help transition to the next activity or is it to promote independence across the morning routine.
- Involve the child in the planning process as it can increase their willingness to follow the schedule. For example, your child might like to help you find Clipart images from google or pose for photos completing the activities.
- Include a finish box or checkbox to help the child feel motivated and feel a sense of accomplishment when moving through their routine.
- Visual schedules can be particularly motivating when they are linked to an end game or motivating activity for example – Including a free choice at the end as an incentive to ticking off the activities.
- Allow the child to have some choice and control in the scheduling or selecting of activities. This can increase motivation and be a useful incentive to completing the other tasks.
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