Visual schedules are so important in the integrated classroom. Think of how many visual schedules you use for yourself: calendars, To-Do lists, google alerts and more! If we, as high functioning individuals need visual schedules, it is essential that our students have them as well.
Why Use Visual Schedules
- Visual schedules are an evidence based practice that has been proven to support individuals with ASD.
- Predictability: Students know what is coming and what to expect during their day.
- Avoid power struggles: Students know that they need to complete all of the tasks on their schedule. This avoids power struggles over work completion.
- Lessen anxiety: When students know the schedule, the worry less about upcoming changes and when their anxiety is down they have less behaviors.
- Better understanding of expectations
- Not fleeting (like verbal language): If the schedule is delivered verbally, students can only hear it once. If it is a physical schedule, students can continuously refer back to it.
Types of Visual Schedules
There are three types of visual schedules. When choosing a visual schedule type, it is important to remember these schedules need to be accessible to students whether they are calm or escalated. When students become escalated, they do not have full executive functioning. Therefore, students need to have schedules they do not have to work to understand. For example, if a student struggles to read when they are calm, having a text schedule will not be accessible to them when they are upset.
Object schedules are the most concrete of visual schedules. These use physical objects, like the ones below to help students understand what comes next. This is for learners who are unable to generalize to pictures yet.
This is the most common visual schedule that is seen in classrooms. There are many different considerations when it comes to picture schedules. Some include real life images, clip art, or pictures with the words. These schedules can be vertical or horizontal. Many times these schedules are on the wall, however they can also be at a desk or in a binder.
This is for students who are typically older and can fluently read.
Must Haves and Considerations
- Be for one child only
Visual schedules need to be child specific. The student needs to be able to take ownership of their schedule. It should also have specifics to their day such as breaks and services.
The schedule needs to be in a place where the child has constant access to it. Do they need it at their desk, on a wall near them, in a folder or a binder? There are many different places the schedule could go.
- System: how will child “check in”
Consider how a student will use their schedule. Do they check it only once in the morning, is there a way they check on it throughout the day? Some students do best with removing the visuals, others cross off and others like to leave them. Be sure it is student specific and reflective of their needs.
- What needs to be on it?
Does the student need to have breaks on their schedule so it is predictable? Do they need bathroom visuals? It is important to think about each schedule individually.
- It is tied to a behavior system?
Some students need this tied to a token economy. There are many ways this can be considered. Other students use their visual schedule with a first- then board. If you want more information on a token economy, click here to read a blog post about it.