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How To Use A Visual Schedule At Home

8/10/2020 By Candous McGuire, MS, BCBA

Visual schedules are support systems that display pictures, words, or checklists in a sequence that correspond with daily activities. There are decades of research to support the use of visual schedules in increasing cooperation and independence with daily routines and activities!

There are several things to consider before implementing a visual schedule for your child at home.

1. Evaluate whether your child would benefit most from using pictures, words, or checklists. Pictures are typically best for non-readers, while a combination of pictures and words may work well for children who are learning to read.

2. If you decide that pictures or words are the best fit, be sure to use cards that feature a variety of the daily activities your child normally engages in. It's important to make sure you create cards for preferred activities—like trampoline time or sensory play—so that your child doesn't associate the visual schedule with only non-preferred activities—like picking up toys or making the bed.

3. Make sure your schedule cards can be posted on a surface at a central location in your home. We recommend using magnetic cards and posting the visual schedule on the refrigerator or a whiteboard to stay organized!

4. Build the visual schedule by arranging the cards in the order in which the activities should occur. Cards can be placed to be viewed from left to right or top to bottom. Post activity cards in a chronological order to help your child understand the order of events and prepare for transitions.


Pro tip
: Allow your child to choose some of the activity cards and the order in which they're placed. Building choice into schedules can help decrease challenging behavior!

5. If using a checklist, post a laminated sheet with check boxes and lines in a designated area and write in your child's daily activities with a dry erase marker.

6. When it's time to transition, tell your child to "Check their schedule!" and have them remove the card or check the box of the corresponding activity. Removed cards can be placed in a designated envelope/pouch or taken with them to be posted in a designated area at their next location/activity. Removing the card from the schedule communicates that the activity has been completed and that the child can move on to the next activity.

Important: Be sure to praise your child verbally and consider offering a preferred toy or treat for successful transitioning. Say, for example, "Great job checking your schedule! Let's go outside!"

A visual schedule helps a child to work through transitions, develop organizational skills and become more independent. However, remember that implementing a new support may take some practice. Praise successes along the way and know that this tool will help your child to increase their functional communication and independence.

Check out our 3-in-1 Visual Support Set - Home Edition to purchase tools that can help your child. Want to learn more about Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy and how it might be able to help your child with autism? Give us a call at 833-825-5246 or email us at info@aimclinics.com for more information. We’re here to help!


For further reading and reference:

Sevin, J. A., Rieske, R. D., & Matson, J. L. (2015). A review of behavioral strategies and support considerations for assisting persons with difficulties transitioning from activity to activity. Review Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 2(4), 329-342.

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