What is a Visual Schedule?
You can use a visual schedule to improve a child’s understanding of the plan. It can be helpful with transitioning between activities, developing new skills and overall reducing the dependence on parents/caretakers. If you’d like to know more about why a visual schedule may be helpful for your child, take a look at our blog post, Importance of Routine and Visual Schedules.
When Could a Visual Schedule be Helpful?
Visual schedules can be helpful in:
- Providing some structure and predictability to the day
- Improving the ability to follow a plan
- Supporting literacy development when incorporating words with pictures
- Improves understanding of sequencing and the concept of time
- Easing transitions between activities
- Decreasing any anxiety about the unknown
- Improving independence
- Building self-esteem and establishing a sense of accomplishment
You can use a visual schedule when you want to help a child understand:
- What is happening next
- Changing normal routine
- Helping the child to complete tasks without adult support
Tips for Creating a Visual Schedule
- Identify the skill/routine you want to focus on.
- Breakdown the activity into steps.
- Determine how the long the schedule will be for. Choose the length that is appropriate at the moment and build on this where necessary
- Choose a suitable visual format.
- Photographs may be helpful for children to understand as they can easily associate the picture of an object to routine activity.
- Symbols/Drawings are helpful as they can be consistent across all contexts if you are going to use the visual schedule at home.
- Text is essential to help develop children’s literacy skills and with images creates a more effective schedule than text or images alone.
- Teach your child how to follow the schedule, mindful that this may take some time and require physical and verbal guidance on how to follow the schedule and complete activities.
- Ensure there is an indication of when your child has completed the tasks, such as moving an image across to finish side of the schedule.
- Remember to provide positive reinforcement (i.e. praise, opportunity to engage in the preferred activity or another motivator for your child) when they complete the schedule appropriately.
Creating your Visual Schedule
Use our visual schedule sheet available here. Ensure that the visuals are always presented from top to bottom for vertical scanners or left to right for horizontal scanners (this will be dependent on how your child reads the schedule best).
From this, you can use a program such as Canva to gather your pictures or Word if you prefer.
There are plenty of great resources out there for images, such as:
- Lessonpix – Picture Cards (lessonpix.com)
- Your photographs – Use your phone camera to take pictures of the objects you want to include. Just make sure the item is on a high contrast background as this ensures your child will be able to understand the focus object easily.
- Do2Learn – Do2learn: Educational Resources for Special Needs
Guide to Using Canva for Creating your Visual Schedule
- Create a Canva account.
- Next, create a new design by clicking the Create a design button, and a document will a appear with a white page and panel on the right-hand side.
- Next, you can start to choose what elements you require for your kids routine. It is helpful to write a list by breaking down all the steps in your morning/night routine. From here, you can create a list of actions and gather the pictures appropriately.
- You can find pictures by looking in the elements section of Canva.
- If you prefer to use your pictures, you can upload individual images in the upload section of the panel. Feel free to be creative here as using your own photographs is encouraged.
- We would recommend putting text at the bottom of your images for the kids to work on improving their reading skills.
- Once you have created all the images required, you can download in the top right corner of the page to print the document.
- Once you have printed the document, we recommend laminating the schedule, if possible, to prevent wear and tear. Otherwise use tape to wrap the paper onto a sheet of cardboard. Once it is ready, place velcro tape/dots onto the back of the visuals and add to your visual schedule.
When making a new schedule, try not to worry about it being perfect because it will change over time and might not work initially for your child. It will also take time for your child to adapt to using this schedule and will take the time to understand the right choices to make. But if you haven’t had any progress after a few weeks, you might need to change things around so don’t be concerned about trying something different.