How to make a visual schedule for an autistic child

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Written By DerrickCalvert

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A neurodevelopmental disorder called autism spectrum disorder (ASD), can have a wide range of effects on a person’s daily life. ASD can impact how someone communicates, interacts and learns. Visual information is often easier for autistic people to understand and respond to.

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What is a visual schedule to help autistic children?

Visual schedules are an image-based tool to support autistic children. The visual schedule shows a series of events that will occur during a task, an activity, or throughout a day.

A visual schedule can use photographs, videos, illustrations or other visual elements to help children understand what is expected of them.

A visual schedule could be used by a parent to help their child get ready for school. You might include photos of tasks to be completed, such as:

  • Brushing your teeth
  • getting dressed
  • combing your hair
  • Breakfast
  • Your backpack should be packed
  • Getting on the school bus

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After the child has arrived at school, they might have a visual schedule that they must follow. This schedule might include:

  • Say hello to your teacher
  • Sitting at your desk
  • Working on your reading
  • Going outside to recess
  • Lunch in the cafeteria
  • Going to an art class
  • Getting on the bus

Visual schedules can span the entire day. Or, you can use multiple visual schedules to break down different parts of the day. Schedules can be customized and adjusted.

The person’s goals, routines and needs will determine the type of visual schedule that is best for them.

These visual tools can help children develop new skills, meet deadlines and reduce dependency on their caregivers, teachers, parents, and teachers.

Additional visual support

Visual supports, which are image-based tools, help autistic persons communicate, follow instructions, and perform daily tasks more effectively. These supports are also useful for autistic persons who don’t speak English.

Visual supports for autism can take the form of:

  • Photographs
  • Drawings
  • written words
  • colors
  • Checklists

An autistic person’s preferences and communication style will determine the best visual support.

Some autistic children may have difficulty responding to verbal instructions and auditory prompts. However, visual supports are often able to bridge this gap.

How visual schedules can help autistic kids?

Visual schedules can reduce anxiety related to scheduling. Many autistic children like to keep to a regular routine. Unexpected scheduling changes can cause anxiety and stress. If a child doesn’t know what to expect, even transitioning between regular activities can be challenging.

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How to create a visual schedule

Each child, family and goal will have a different process for creating a visual schedule. These tips will help you create a visual schedule that is most helpful to your autistic child.

Identify the skill or routine you are trying to master.

If you want to make your morning routine more manageable, then focus first on the visual schedule. Break down the morning activities into manageable steps.

Choose the right visual style

Your child’s preference will determine the best visual tool. Some children respond better to pictures of them doing the task. Some children may prefer illustrations. Others may just need a list of text. You may need to try several different visual tools before you find the right one for your child.

Mix it up!

Your child might need to be rewarded for completing a long list. This could include time to read or playing. These activities should be mixed in so that they have something to strive for.

Make sure to keep the schedule easily accessible

You can keep a copy of your schedule handy so that they can refer to it whenever necessary. It should also be available at school. You can also create a digital schedule using a tablet or smart device.

Include your child in this process

While younger children might not be interested in participating in their daily planning, older children, adolescents and teenagers may.

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To help them make better decisions, you can create a visual schedule. It can help them feel more in control of their day. This can help them mentally prepare to face the next day.