Visual Schedules: A Positive Support Strategy For Kids

May 3, 2012

Preventing Behaviors

Children with autism frequently have trouble paying attention to, adapting to, and understanding auditory input. They also tend to have strengths in rote memory and the ability to understand visual information. Visual schedules are a Positive Support Strategy that takes advantage of these strengths by efficiently communicating information in a way that allows children to better predict and plan within the special needs ministry classroom!

What is a Visual Schedule?

A visual schedule is a set of pictures that communicates a series of activities or the steps of a specific activity. Visual schedules are meant to help children with special needs understand and manage the daily events in their lives. Visual schedules may be created using photographs, pictures, written words, or physical objects. Ideally, they communicate clear expectations for the child and decrease the need for constant adult involvement in the activity. Most visual schedules are introduced with adult guidance that gradually decreases with time. They can be used at church, at school, and at home.

What’s it like?

Schedules may be placed into notebooks or on a schedule board, or also presented with the aid of or on computers.

When designing a visual schedule, consider the following questions:

  • Will the child understand or recognize the pictures or words?
  • Is the activity represented by the visual schedule obvious to the child?
  • Can the schedule be made clearer by the use of words, more images, or objects?
  • Does the child know and have available the tools required to successfully complete the activity?

 Does it work?

Many educational studies have demonstrated that visual schedules are effective in helping developmentally disabled, and specifically, children with autism and ADHD.  These studies show visual schedules to be effective in helping children to gain independence and increase on-task behavior at church, school, home, and in community settings. In younger children, this can translate into improved play skills, and a decrease in disruptive and aggressive behavior. Specifically, use of visual schedules has been associated with a decrease in disruptive behavior, aggression, tantrums, and property destruction.

In older children, use of visual schedules can enhance learning and improve a child’s ability to perform the skills required for daily living. Visual schedules have also been effectively used to improve physical activity in a physical education setting. With time, some children are able to independently use visual schedules to achieve on-task behavior and self-management without supervision.

The most effective way to use visual schedules is to have them readily available and used consistently. Most children seem to enjoy the use of schedules and appear to be excited to see what will be coming next. This enthusiasm has been shown to translate into increased peer to peer interactions.

Watch and Learn!

Here’s a short but informative tutorial on Visual Schedules:

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About Michael Woods

Christ-follower, husband, chocoholic, and peanut-butter lover! I'm a father to triplet boys...each on the autism spectrum.

View all posts by Michael Woods


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