The importance of Using Visual schedules in the classroom!
using visual schedules in the special needs classroom

Visual schedules are just a visual prompt that is used to help our kids understand what is coming next.  Simple right?  But so many teachers forget to use them and I have even talked to some teachers who think that they are a waste of time (WHAT???)   Visual schedules are actually evidence-based practices and are based on the idea that students on the spectrum struggle with predicting what comes next.  These visual schedules are made and used to help depict their day or what will happen next.
 We should all be using them.  No matter what type of schedules you are using, you NEED to be using them.  Students on the Autism spectrum often need to visually see what is coming next or how their day is going to go.  Here is a list of all the reasons that using visual schedules is important.

1. Anxiety Reducing– First and foremost is the fact that it reduces anxiety.  There are many students on the spectrum that have daily struggles with anxiety and stress and to not know how their day is going to play out or even what is coming up next, can cause them to explode and can manifest into severe or even aggressive behaviors.  We want these students to be able to focus on what they are doing, so why not clear their thinking by providing a visual schedule to calm their anxiety and relieve their stress.  I have seen many teachers even power struggle over this!!  They truly need to know what is coming up next.

2.  Independence– just like how you and I check out notebooks, calendars or digital reminders, we want our students to be able to check their schedules independently too. They will not always have someone telling them what to do next to their entire lives, so it is our goal to make sure that they can do this by themselves.

3. No Arguing!  When students are checking their schedules and time to transition, they can't argue with us or the teacher, its what the schedule says!   When the teachers aren't telling the students what to do, they can't argue with us.  The schedule is telling them what to do.

4. Reminders!  Visual schedules can help remind your students what is coming next.  Do you ever have a child constantly ask when lunch is?  Well, this alleviates that problem and allows the child to glance at the schedule and figure it out themselves. Some kids often forget multiple times in a 30-minute session but always have that visual schedule to refer to.

5.  Zero words!  Most adults often forget to use as little words as possible.  Using visual schedules allows us to use pictures and word cards to eliminate using verbal language altogether.  Remember, kids on the spectrum have a very hard time processing verbal cues, so using as many visual cues as possible will make them that much more successful.

6. Evidence-Based Practice! – Visual Schedules have been found through multiple national Autism Centers that this is truly an evidence-based practice.

7. SO many versions!  There are endless ways that you can use visual schedules, so you can always switch it up if that particular schedule is not working for your kiddo.  I'll talk more about the variety of schedules in a different blog post soon.

8. Multi-uses– You can use visual schedules within a center, as a whole class schedule, as individual schedules, small-group schedules, gen-ed schedules, there are so many ways to use visual schedules.

9. Multi-variety A visual schedule can be created using photographs, pictures, written words, physical objects or any combination of these items. Schedules can be put into notebooks, onto a wall or schedule board or onto a computer.

10. Improves on-task behaviors – when students are so worried about not knowing what is coming up next, they can actually use all that brainpower to stay on task and complete their work.

11.  Can increase communication and social skills- there are so many kids that use their visual schedule as a talking point which increases the amount of language and provides opportunities to use speech.  And it makes talking points with their peers and other students which can improve their social skills as well.

I have found that there are only 3 real downsides to visual schedules, but it is an us problem not a them problem.   Time, cost and space.  I am not going to lie to you,  planning and creating visual schedules take time and could cost a lot of money out of your own pocket, not to mention the amount of space that you will need to either store them or display them.  But listen… it is soooo worth it.  I have seen students' behaviors completely turn around when using visual schedules and I would even say it was a lifesaver in some instances. 

I have a pack of visual aids in my store that you could check out here, inside you will find some visual schedule templates and first then charts to help you get started.  Then you could printout board maker symbols, or real photographs from your picture library or even google.

this is just a template found in my resource

Let me know in the comments if you have any questions about how to make, plan, or implement visual schedules!

Or you can pin this blog post for later:

I am a High School, self-contained Autism teacher from Central New York, who is passionate about individualizing student learning. I am a mommy of three, lover of all things Disney, married to my best friend and addicted to chocolate!! I hope that you find great ideas and inspiration here, so welcome!!

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