Wednesday, July 6, 2011

What is a Visual Schedule?

by Nicole Caldwell, M.Ed.

A visual schedule is a visual representation of tasks to be completed. A series of tasks, events, or activities can be presented in one or more of the following ways:


As many individuals with autism learn much better with visual than with auditory input, visual schedules may be considered an effective method for teaching and communicating with students with autism. A picture schedule may be used to communicate a series of events that must be completed (such as a math worksheet, reading a book, then outside play), a daily schedule (such as breakfast, school, homework, outside play, dinner, bath, and bed), a school schedule (math, literature, science, P.E.), a reinforcement contingency (first work, then play), etc.

You will see examples of these schedule types in this issue of Positively Autism. To get started, below is an example of part of a visual schedule I started using with my son when he was two-and-a-half years old. I searched Microsoft Word clip art for pictures representing activities that we needed to complete.

I have not included them for copyright reasons, but I also would include logos of specific stores that we needed to go to. When using the schedule, I would show him the pictures in the document on my computer screen. I would tell him, “Here are the things we need to do today.” Then I would explain each picture to him. This helped him transition between activities and increased his willingness to get in the car when we needed to go somewhere.

Example morning schedule (eat breakfast, take a bath, then read a book):

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