A visual schedule is something that allows children to see their day or activity in a more organized manner. These work great for kids diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum, ADHD, or anyone for that matter! The implementation of visual supports and schedules provides structure, and allows children to know what is expected of them, such as answering “what work” is expected of them and “how much work” is expected of them. This helps to alleviate stress when it comes to transitioning and allows children to see what is coming next. It allows our kids to feel better prepared and better organized, and may help to reduce behavioral problems.
A visual schedule can be used for almost anything, from planning out an entire day to planning out a specific event. These work great for planning specific daily events-such as a morning or bedtime routine. A visual schedule can be made by using PECS pictures to handwritten or hand-drawn pictures! Visual supports also work in this way. Visual supports can be anything from a Venn diagram (for those school-aged kids working on language expansion), to a visual timer for children to see when time to be spent on a certain activity is up, to any other aid that our kids can see!
I like to start off therapy sessions by creating a visual schedule with my kids. I like to give them the choice of the reward activity (bubbles, jumping, bike, etc.) and I pick the structured activity. For example, if we are going to read a book (I will generally pull two and allow the child to choose-if possible), I will tell them first we are reading a book, and then we will do the desired activity of their choice. This way, it creates a structured environment that is still fun, in which they understand what will be expected of them and what the reward can be for our 30 minute session together.
It is important to note that, as is true with any treatment, there is no “one size fits all” approach! One child may need a very detailed visual schedule, while the next may need just a general layout of the day. These can be implemented in ANY environment-home, school, therapy, you name it! There are many examples of these on the Internet, or just talk to your therapist if you would like any more information about the topic!
Written by Nicole Dupont, M.A., CFY-SLP