Thursday, July 11, 2024

Visual Schedules For Students With Autism

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Why Do Schedules Work For Students With Autism

Visual Schedule for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Schedules work so well for students with autism because they address many of the fundamental issues students with autism may have. These are:

  • Rigidity and a need for sameness changes can create considerable stress for students with autism
  • Limited understanding of the concept of time not knowing what is happening or what will happen and in what order
  • Difficulty with communication including difficulty understanding verbal explanations of what will happen at certain times during the day
  • Difficulty with working memory difficulty remembering what is happening in what sequence

Using Visual Schedules To Support Students With Autism

Posted by Christen Barbercheck on April 29, 2021

Using Visual Schedules to Support Students with Autism

Visual supports are a must for students who have been diagnosed with autism. Visuals come in different forms and the format or complexity of the visual can increase as the student progresses.

  • To allow students to be independent
  • Easy to differentiate

What Are Visual Supports

Visual supports are non-verbal ways for children with autism spectrum disorders to communicate their needs and make sense of the world around them. Children with autism benefit from using visual supports for a variety of reasons. A nonverbal child can use a Picture Exchange Communication System to communicate his/her needs.

A child who benefits from routine and knowing the order of the day might use a visual calendar or schedule to familiarize himself/herself with upcoming events. A child who struggles with transitions such as leaving his/her home and getting on the school bus or tidying up might find pictures illustrating the appropriate steps helpful.

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Individual Visual Schedules For Students With Autism Part 1

The most common type of visual schedules for students with autism are full-day individual visual schedules. As I discussed in a previous post, there are many types of schedules and schedules can be used for many different purposes for children with developmental disabilities. Last week I talked specifically about the basic form of first-then schedules. Today I will focus on full day schedules that can take several forms for special education teachers.

Printable Communication Systems For Autism

Autism Life Skills Free Visual Schedule Printables

You know too much talking doesnt really help students with Autism or language processing deficits. Why, then, do we only think of AAC and communication boards for students?

Now dont get me wrong students need choice and voice. Be sure you provide students with a way to communicate. Check out this post on How to use AAC More in the Classroom and then print these helpful freebies:

Super Power Speech shared a great set of communication cards perfect for the teacher in the classroom to give directives to students. Check those out here.

If you are looking for a set of communication cards a student can carry around to share basic wants and needs, then this one is free, printable, and simple. Print and go for a student communication ring or necklace. Check it out from 2livNlearnhere.

If you need a great one pager to work with core vocabulary, then Teach Love Autism has a great and free one page printable you can start using today. You can find that here.

Boardmaker Icons are universal in most of sped. If you want something with the Boardmaker visual icons you know and love, check out this free one page core vocab printable from Susan Berkowitz and you can find that here.

And, at the very least, print out these simple Yes-No cards to have on hand. You would be amazed how much such a simple printable visual can do! Check this one out from Words to Live Byhere.

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When Do I Stop Using Visual Supports For My Child With Autism

I am often asked the question, When do I fade the use of visual supports? The answer isyou dont. All of us use some sort of visual tool to create schedules and keep ourselves organized. We use iPhones, daytimers, desk calendars, and checklists. Use these tools to create visual schedules for our folks on the spectrum because they create which lessens anxiety.

Do you stop using your daytimer, calendar or iPhone? Do you shop without a list? The answer is no, so dont stop using visuals with people on the spectrum. You can change what you use as the child ages because it may no longer be appropriate. A teenager using a Velcro strip visual schedule taped to his desk may make him stand out from his peers, but an iTouch helps him be like everyone else.

One final note just because a person on the autism spectrum is highly verbal or intelligent doesnt mean they dont need visual supports. I know an adult woman on the spectrum who lives successfully on her own, but keeps checklists all over her apartment on how to do laundry, dishes, and when to take out the garbage.

Visual supports help with learning, retaining information, communication, and expression. To quote my good friend Leslie Broun, Auditory information is transient visual information can be fixed and permanent.

Using A Visual Schedule

Many teachers of children with special needs use various visual schedule throughout the day. The visual schedule gives students a sense of what will be expected of them and that there is an clear end. Depending on the level and needs of the students, the visual schedule cards may help organize the time frame as needed .

Here are a variety of uses of a visual schedule and how they can be easily incorporated into the day.

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Initiation Of Use Of The Schedule

Finally, staff needs to determine how a student will know when it is time to check his/her schedule. Initially staff may bring schedule information to the student at the culmination of an activity, however most students will eventually go to a transition area when cued. Visual cues are often most effective to signal to students that a transition is occurring and that information about an upcoming activity can be found on their schedules. Staff may decide to use a card with the students name on it or a favorite picture as the cue. When students are given this cue, they may carry it to their schedule, place it in a matching pocket or container, and then refer to the next activity on the visual schedule. Using this cue consistently is an excellent tool in helping students know when to transition, and when to remain in an activity or location. The use of a visual cue also reduces dependency on adult prompts during transitions.

Orange cards with students name on it serve as visual cues to let student know when to access visual schedule. When student is given card, she knows it is time to check her schedule.

How To Plan Your Daily Routine

Using Activity Schedules to Increase Independence | Visual Schedule for Children with Autism

Before making the actual visual schedule itself you need to first plan what your daily routine and the kids daily routine will look like.

Most likely some parts of your daily routine are already established, like dinner time and bedtime. But if you have a lot of gaps in your day that are chaotic or have no apparent plan then it can be hard to decide what you want to do with that time.

Its a good idea to jot down a few habits that youd like the family to adopt as part of their day, for example, everyone cleaning their rooms each day. Then you can start planning those habits into your day.

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How To Put Together A Visual Schedule Online

There are many online tools and programs for making visual schedules online. A resource I personally like is the Make A Schedule Program from which is easy to use, has tutorials for step by step instruction, is available to be converted into multiple languages, allows you to import your own images, create custom forms or use the ready-made forms, allows you to make 1 or 2 images, allows you to change the text under the image to suit your specific needs, allows you to make First & Then forms, you can save forms made, and so much more. In addition to Make A Schedule, Do2learn has released View2do, which works on iPads, iPhones, PCs, and Apple Macs.

According to Do2Learn: It allows you to create a visual support and email it to someone who can open it on a remote touch device. The student can check completed items on a form or type into fields and email back to the teacher, who can access the student information to monitor progress. Templates let you start with premade forms or create custom ones using many editing features including colored borders, multiple languages, and imported images to supplement our thousands of custom ones. Libraries offer premade schedules, story strips and activities. Schedules and other forms can be securely shared between teachers using private school accounts.

Endless Uses And Opportunities

This visual schedule activity board can be used in many ways to fit children of various ability levels. You can begin with actual photos of your preschooler√Ęs favorite foods and toys and then progress to universal PECS designs. The board is portable and durable. You or your child can move it from room to room. The possibilities are endless with this custom augmentative communication board.

Also Check: How Early Can They Detect Autism

What Is A Visual Schedule

A visual schedule is a graphic representation of scheduled tasks and activities. They are very useful for breaking down tasks that have multiple steps and ensuring that children follow rules and deadlines. Visual schedules reduce anxiety by providing consistency while also reducing resistance that comes with certain activities. Although most people associate these visual supports with picture schedules or photographs, events can be triggered through:

The visual schedule itself is a constant reminder to students of:

  • where they should be
  • what they should be doing and
  • when they should start and finish

Using The Schedule Board

Example of a Visual Schedule

The Schedule Board includes a clear large white box at the top. This is the stimulus box where the current activity is to be placed. This is a really nice design element that makes it really obvious what the current now activity is.

Before I go to bed I will set the kids schedule up for the following day. This means when the boys come downstairs in the morning they can see what is happening over the day. The first item on our schedule is usually breakfast which will be put straight into the stimulus box for us to get started.

My youngest has been excitedly going straight to the schedule in the morning to see whats going on.

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Printable Rules Cards For Classroom Management

You have rules in your classroom so how do you reinforce and review rules with your students? Start by posting rules and setting up personal rules for students as a way to help manage behaviors.

If you are not sure how to start addressing behaviors in your classroom, then read the post on Function of Behavior to get started. Then print out these freebies to help you get it done!

Shenanigans in SPED posted a 3 Strikes behavior visual that can be used to reinforce classroom rules. Check that out here.

Erin Dunkle has shared a Rule Board that combines with a Token Board for teachers to get more bang for their Velcro-Bucks! You can find this simple and effective printable here.

Erin from Creating and Teaching has a 27 page FREE visual rule card printable that is perfect for posting classroom rules for all your students. You can score this one here.

Visual Scheduling For Older Children And Adults

Clear visual schedules can benefit all people who need help with keep track of activities or help with a sense of time!

With the schedule available on a mobile phone a person can always have a option to fallback on. By using countdown timers, alarm notifications and speech no activities are skipped. An mobile phone can also provide a discrete schedule to check when necessary.

We know for sure there are a lot of situations where visual scheduling, and thus AutiPlan, can help. It is worth a try!

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Daily Visual Schedules For Kids

Please note that if the resource is posted with strikethrough font, it means that the link went dead and I could not find a replacement. Sorry, but thats what happens when a post is old, but popular! The other sites stop blogging or whateverand then their content isnt available.

  • First,_next,_then_boards by Seomra Ranga
  • Benefits Of Visual Schedules

    Autism in the Classroom- Visual Schedules (P2)

    There are several reasons why visual schedules are both popular and helpful:

    • Structure and Predictability

    Visual schedules provide structured predictability. Students with autism or other developmental disabilities may need to know what is coming next so they can emotionally prepare for the upcoming activity. A picture schedule for autism presents the student with expectations that they can then manage, helping to ease transition periods. In general, the fewer surprises the better unexpected events are usually unwelcome and may lead to acting out behavior. The predictability of a schedule provides visual support and a sense of security. It can also ease anxiety.

    • Increases Learning

    These types of visual supports can be used to teach students a daily routine as well as skills to perform a specific activity. A visual schedule for autism classrooms can help students stay on track. For example, a teacher may post the days picture schedule on a wall or provide pictures that describe steps on how to go to the bathroom. Giving step-by-step visual cues appears to be an effective way for most autistic kids to learn and helps keep them on task. Visual schedules can be created for almost any set of skills, including:

    • social interactions
    • Turns Abstract Into Concrete

    • employ time management

    These are all crucial abilities for independence. Eventually, they may be able to create and follow their own schedules, indicating their progress toward being more self-sufficient.

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    It Doesnt Have To Be A Picture Schedule

    Keep in mind that not all visual schedules are picture schedules. These students may have a list or a written schedule, rather than a picture schedule. They can keep it in their pocket or their notebook. They may not need to even have a schedule but could use their daily planner as their schedule. But many times a visual schedule can help a student to navigate the day without adult support. So visual schedules for autism, in this case, can increase independence.

    Use Visual Schedules Within Activities

    In addition to the main visual schedule, students may benefit from a schedule within an activity or station. Using an activity schedule can help students understand expectations and how long until they get to do a favored activity or be reinforced. This visual schedule could be a checklist that incorporates pictures or cards.

    I find activity mini schedules particularly helpful during remote learning. It helps keep my students and me on track!

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    How Do I Get My Child On A Schedule

    Using picture cues for children is a great way to establish a routine.

    Start with a morning routine

    Get dressed



    Once you feel you have a complete schedule for your child, you should have it posted for a whole day.

    Make sure you include daily activities that are active activities and also calming down activities.

    Creating Your Daily Routine & Visual Schedule Step

    Visual Schedules for Students with Autism
  • Write down what already happens every dayThe best way is to begin by writing down your schedule starting with what already happens every day and at approximately that time. These should be things such as dinner, waking up, bath time, going to school, bedtime, etc.
  • Fill in the gapsFill in the gaps by deciding on more structured activities for your child for specific times. Instead of telling them to go play you can add activities like outdoor play, fine motor play , quiet time, etc. It doesnt have to be a specific activity that they do every day because that can get very boring. But, for example, if you designate 3 pm-4 pm for craft time, then you plan different tasks each day or a week at a time.
  • Structure the environmentSet up specific areas in your home where each of these activities will happen and get any supplies you need. For example, set up your craft table, get a bin and fill it with homework supplies and set up a homework station. Build a calm down space and anything else you want to create.
  • Decide how you will transition in between activities on the schedule will you use a timer? A verbal cue? A sound warning? A song?Each activity needs a clear start and finish. This helps children know when its time to move on. Plus, this transition cue should be consistent between every activity.
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    Questions Around Visual Schedules And Autism

    Some of the questions I found running through my head when considering visual schedules for my child with autism were:

    • How was I to make a schedule when things change?
    • Did I really need to plan every minute of every day?
    • What supplies do I need to start?
    • What is cost effective?

    I soon learned that there are different ways of making a schedule and they can be adapted according to each individual family. Some families need a daily schedule to help with the daily routine, some need a schedule for home life in general, some for the school day, some just need smaller prompts to help their children stay organized with specific events. I learned I could cerate a printable visual schedule, a first then board, use picture cards, create color coded charts, and much more. In essence, a visual schedule is a different thing for each individual family and can be adapted accordingly.

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