Using visual schedules: A Guide for Parents

By: Jessica Drake-Simmons M.S. CCC-SLP

Using visual schedules allows your child to see what is going to be happening in their day and the order of events.  Visual schedules can be customized to meet the needs of each child.  Getting started with a visual schedule can seem overwhelming, so this blog will help you recognize if your child would benefit from a visual schedule with ideas on how to get started.

7 Benefits of visual schedules:

  1. Provides structure and predictability:  Visual schedules prepare a child for what is coming up, which can reduce anxiety. 
  2. Eases transitions: Visual schedules are helpful in easing transitions from one activity to the next.
  3. Reinforce verbal instructions: Most children process visual information better than auditory information.  Words disappear after we say them and the visuals give language a lasting component. 
  4. Supports literacy development- Consistent exposure to written words can enforce reading of sight-words and provide an opportunity to practice reading through decoding.   
  5. Supports development of executive functioning: Visual schedules enforce planning, sequencing, completing tasks independently and the natural consequences of time management.
  6. Supports conversation skills: Many childrenn have difficulty recalling and retelling previous events.  Providing the visual framework of the schedule can help kids answer open-ended questions like: “What did you do today?” or “What was your favorite activity?”
  7. Helps caregivers:  Having a plan in place can be calming for adults.  Creating a schedule helps the caregiver prepare for the day and use time effectively.

Decide on the format

Visual schedules come in all shapes and forms.  When selecting a visual schedule format, consider which would be most functional for you to use, along with what would be most beneficial for your child.  Some schedule forms take more preparation while schedules like line drawn images or written words can be done quickly and on the fly. 

  Here are some different types of visual schedules:

all+picApps on phone/tablet   Tangible pictures with Velcro Line drawing images  Written words

Decide on the length The length of the schedule will be based on your son or daughter’s needs and abilities. Some children may be able to use a whole day schedule while others will be overwhelmed by this amount of information and will need to see just one or two items at a time.

First/Then-This can be an effective format to introduce visual schedules without overwhelming the child with too much information.  It can assist a child in getting through the non-preferred first activity by seeing that next, she will get a preferred choice.

day
Part of the day with more specific activities                                              Monthly Calendar

 

 

all day .jpg
Whole day with more general activities

It is beneficial to include your child as part of the process of creating the schedule.  The slowed down, one step at a time, verbal explanations paired with visuals helps the child understand and prepare for upcoming activities.  It can also be a nice opportunity for the child to have some autonomy and make choices about what their day will look like. Don’t feel that making a schedule means that you have to rigidly follow it.  Life is unpredictable and having a change in plans is something that we all have to adapt to.  The visual schedule can be a great tool to teach your kids about flexibility.

Learn more about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley resources here: https://eastersealsdfvr.org/.

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