How a Visual Schedule Can Help Your Child

Community Member

One of the things you may notice about your child with ADHD or autism is that they do better with some sort of structure. I know this is the case for my child who exhibits far more behavior problems during free time than those time periods where there is a defined schedule of activities. One behavior management tool which is both effective and easy to create is a visual schedule.

Here are just some of the ways that a visual schedule can decrease behavior problems.

  • Many children who have special needs become anxious when they don't know what to expect. A visual schedule can eliminate much of that anxiety as they can see a clear sequence of activities which have a beginning and an end.

  • A visual schedule can help your child to feel more at ease through transitions.   Transition times can be shown on the schedule as a separate activity such as getting on a coat before recess or washing hands before dinner.

  • Using a visual schedule can help your child to become more independent as you do not have to constantly tell them what to do.

  • Your child may be able to accomplish more during their day as their schedule clearly shows which tasks need to be done and when.

  • A visual schedule is particularly effective for those children who are visual learners as well as for children who do not read yet.

  • You can teach your child how to make decisions by including choices of activities in their visual schedule.

Types of Visual Schedules

There are many different types of visual schedules one can use depending on your purpose. They all have the common feature of using photos, icons, or drawings to show a sequence of activities. Here are some of the more popular types of visual schedules.

  • Task Analysis Schedules

A task analysis schedule is one where you have broken down a particular task into smaller steps. For example here is an "I Can Brush My Teeth Activity Schedule" just to show you what it can look like. You would have a photo or icon to represent each step involved in the task such as turning on the faucet, wetting the toothbrush and so forth. This type of schedule is great for teaching a child independence in mastering a particular chore or task.

  • First-Then Schedules

A very simple schedule you can create for your child is a first-then schedule. This type of schedule is good if you want to set up a rewarding activity following a challenging task. For example you can show a picture of a chore such as taking out the trash as the "first" activity. The next photo can show something rewarding such as making popcorn as the activity labeled "then." There are a number of resources to create such a schedule such as this First Then Schedule app. Here is another example of a first-then schedule from the Do2Learn website.

  • Activity Schedules

An activity schedule shows the child's activities for the day in sequential order. An easy way to create an activity schedule is to take a manila file folder and place Velcro strips horizontally across the page. You then take visual icons, drawings, or photos of each activity and stick a piece of Velcro onto the back of each visual. You can then arrange the visual activities in the order that they occur. Tape a large envelope on the back of the folder with the word "Finished" or "All done" printed on it. As your child finishes an activity they can then place the visual activity icon into the "all done" envelope. Here is an example of a visual activity schedule from Boardmaker share.

Here are some further resources to help you to create a visual schedule for your child: - ** PictureSet**   PictureSET is a collection of downloadable visual supports that can be used by students for both receptive and expressive communication.

  • Do2Learn   Provides printable resources for children with special needs.

  • Wisconsin Special Education Services: Visual Schedules   This special education site shows multiple examples of visual schedules.