If your child is experiencing difficulty with transitions, having a daily visual schedule can be a huge help. A graphical program is a picture or icon representing the activities and tasks during a workout or routine. Visible schedules can be used for daily routines and activities, short term tasks, leisure activities, specific subjects at school, to name a few.
The purpose of the visual schedule is to provide the individual with a sequence of upcoming events to know what will happen next and what is expected of them. Visible schedules allow individuals on the autism spectrum to anticipate and prepare for upcoming activities and routines. This preparation can dramatically decrease anxiety and stress-related behaviors by reducing uncertainty about what will happen next.
Here are ways in which daily visual schedules benefit children.
Why Visual Schedules Are Important
Visual schedules can be helpful for any child, but especially for those who have difficulty transitioning from one activity to the next or who benefit from seeing the whole day laid out in front of them. They can also help prevent meltdowns. The predictability of knowing what comes next will help your child feel more secure throughout the day.
Here are some of the benefits of using a daily visual schedule:
- It helps eliminate confusion and frustration over what comes next
- Provides predictability which helps children feel secure
- Allows children to make choices and feel in control of their day
- Increases independence by assisting children to remember routines and tasks
- Prepares children for transitions (and helps them cope with transitions)
- Supports on-task behavior by helping children stay focused on the current activity
- Provide structure and predictability
- Promote independence
- Reduce behavior problems
- Increase on-task behavior
- Reduce anxiety
- Transition children to new environments and situations
- Increase understanding of time concepts
What Should a Visual Schedule Include?
A visual schedule will include pictures of activities that will happen during the day and times for these activities. A visual schedule might also include information about where activities will take place (e.g., ‘home,’ ‘school,’ ‘gymnasium’). This information helps prepare the child for transitions from one environment to another.
Visual schedules should be placed in an area that is visible to the individual, such as on a wall or refrigerator door. The schedule should be changed daily and kept up-to-date. As each activity is completed, remove or cover up its picture card.
The following are guidelines for making a visual schedule:
- Keep it simple
- Keep it consistent
- Keep it portable
Finally, a visual schedule can be displayed on a portable device (such as a PDA or handheld computer), on paper, or on a dry erase board.
It is used in combination with verbal instructions for tasks/activities/transitions that are familiar to children, including those with ASD. It is crucial that the activity matches the picture to avoid confusion about which activity follows which picture. These pictures should remain in place until the activity is completed and then moved to another part of the board