Undivided: Using a Daily Visual Schedule for Kids with Autism
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The Amazing Visual Schedule!


Published: Aug. 20, 2020Updated: Sep. 19, 2023
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Many of our kiddos are visual learners, and research shows that visual schedules can clearly reinforce expectations in a way that’s easy for kids to understand, which can lead to reduced stress and anxiety, increased independence, and fewer meltdowns. Being able to visualize the day, week, or even month ahead can help kids complete steps, transition between activities, stay focused, and process information. This also provides a sense of predictability in an increasingly unpredictable environment. Here, our research team has gathered some helpful tips and resources for creating and implementing visual schedules that will benefit your entire family.

Create a schedule

The experts at Child Mind have compiled Parenting Hacks for Special Needs Kids, which offers tips for helping support children with sensory issues and other common executive functioning challenges. This includes helping children and families to get organized by making visual schedules. Families are encouraged to sit down together to brainstorm ideas, routines, and themes, and then put them all together in a schedule that works for the entire family.

Make it visual

A visual schedule is considered an important intervention according to the University of Utah Department of Educational Psychology’s report on Visual Schedules: A Practical Guide for Families. Visual schedules can help kids with following a routine, transition between activities, develop new skills, and be more independent when completing daily tasks.

Visual schedules can consist of photographs, videos, line drawings, symbols, text, or another visual format that is used to show the user what they are expected to do.” These tasks are then arranged in the order they are to be completed. This provides the child with predictability and expectations.

Tips for creating a visual schedule

Appropriate visual format

  • Visual schedules can be picture-based or text-based with times, depending on each family member’s developmental level.
  • Research has found that schedules that use photographs, videos, or a combination are more beneficial than schedules that use just line drawings or text only.
  • You can also personalize the schedule by using images of the child successfully completing each of the tasks.

Monthly visual calendar

  • Consider posting a monthly calendar with all activities for the month in a common area like the kitchen.
  • Make a monthly calendar for each family member, with a general idea of what each day will look like, such as school day, holiday, etc.

Weekly visual calendar

  • Use a poster-size whiteboard
  • Glue photos to index cards with velcro on the back of them
  • Each day the child can see where they are going, who they are going with, and what kind of clothes are needed for the weather. This can be tailored to the individual’s needs.
  • Set up the weekly board on Sunday afternoons as a family, so everyone is given a chance to talk about the week to come and anything unusual that might be coming up.

Daily visual schedule

  • Try a magnetized flow chart; this can be made similar to a game board, where the child moves the task along the board to completion.
  • According to research on visual schedules, it’s important to “include a way for the child to indicate when steps have been completed, such as filling in a check box or moving images from the “to do” side of the schedule to the “done” side of the schedule.”
  • Use dry-erase markers to write tasks on the bathroom mirror or shower wall for tasks like the morning routine, writing out each step for the child to follow.
  • Use a pocket-sized visual schedule with icons or photos for the day’s schedule. It could be laminated and hole-punched and placed on a keyring or images can be pasted into a small notebook.

Our 7 top visual schedule apps and printables for kids

Choiceworks

Choiceworks visual schedule app for iPhone

Choiceworks is a visual schedule-builder that is meant to teach children necessary daily routines such as showering and brushing their teeth, but it also teaches children how to be patient and control their feelings through the use of countdown timers. This app was created in coordination with child development specialists and leading hospitals, and offers countless customizations.

  • Ages: 4+
  • Cost: $19.99
  • Platform: iPad and iPhone

Cozi Family Organizer

Cozi family calendar app

This award-winning app (which has been featured on the Today Show and Martha Stewart Living) helps families organize their daily activities by keeping track of everyone’s schedules and sending reminders. Everyone in the family can log in and see the same information.

  • Ages: 4+
  • Cost: FREE with account; offers in-app purchases
  • Platform: iPad, iPhone, and Google Play

First Then Visual Schedule

First Then visual schedule app

This app allows you to create a variety of visual supports including “first, then” boards, visual daily schedules, task analyses, stories, and visual models. It’s completely customizable, so you can use your own photos, images found on the internet, and stock images provided by the app. Parents may also record their own voice to go with the images and email a PDF copy of the schedule to print for home. In addition, it has three formats so parents can choose which best suits the needs of their child: full screen, “first, then” screen, and list screen.

  • Ages: 4+
  • Cost: $9.99
  • Platform: iPad and iPhone

Do2Learn

Do2Learn visual schedule printables

This educational website provides tips for teachers and parents and allows users to build their own visual schedules. They provide free printable picture cards parents can use to create their own visual schedule board. They offer suggestions on how to sequence the picture cards to create a cohesive and organized routine for various tasks. In addition, they provide free printable templates in various daily, weekly, and calendar formats.

  • Ages: Varies; features are organized by suggested age of user
  • Cost: FREE resources and features for purchase

SchKIDules

SchKIDules visual schedules for kids

This website provides multiple formats for magnetic and velcro visual schedules for purchase. They also offer categorized packets of images, such as school, home, and emotions, to use with the schedules. There are icons for all areas of daily life and activities for creating a sequenced visual schedule.

  • Ages: Not listed
  • Cost: Varies by item from $5 to $35; a deluxe magnet collection box is $34.99

Template from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Daily schedule chart from the CDC

The CDC offers examples of visuals to create structure and blank templates for parents to use.

Teachers Pay Teachers

Classroom schedule template

This website provides an editable Daily Class Schedule Template for only $1.

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Contents


Overview

Create a schedule

Make it visual

Tips for creating a visual schedule

Our 7 top visual schedule apps and printables for kids

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