10 types of Visual Schedules for Special Education
10 types of visual schedules for special education classrooms

Using Visual Schedules:

Using the right type of visual schedules can, quite honestly, make or break your classroom.  Students crave routine, especially those that are on the Autism spectrum.  They need to know what is coming next and visual schedules can help provide this much-needed structure.

Some teachers will argue that kids don't need a schedule, but I will disagree every time.

Even grown adults, that are typically developing, need and want visual schedules.  Whether is a list on my phone or a pacing checklist that I made for vacation, these types of schedules ensure that I do every step and don't forget anything.



visual schedules in the special education classroom

Different Types Of Schedules:

There are so many different types of schedules out there.  They come in many different variations, you just need to pick the one that best meets the needs of your students.  And remember, you don't have to pick just one specific type for your entire classroom.  Choose the visual schedule that matches the student's needs.

I will go over the top 10 types of visual schedules that I have used in my classroom. 

1. Object Schedules:

Object schedules are just that; schedules made with objects.  These types of schedules are used for the visually impaired.  When creating an object schedule, pair the object with the subject, so that when the student feels the object with their hand (especially if they have a visual impairment) they understand where they are going or what's next.
For example, if the student has lunch, I would use a fork to represent lunch on the schedule. You can take large foam board pieces (like 4×4) and glue them on the object.  I would also write the word on the schedule so that all the adults know the language to use and what to call each activity.


First then board to be used as a schedule

2. first/then boards:

I use First/Then boards in my classroom every single day.  You can use this as a simple schedule or an addition to the schedule they already have.   Sometimes students aren't ready for a full schedule and so you can start with a first then schedule to get them used to the concept.


3. Picture Schedule:

This is your typical picture icon schedule.  You want to make sure that when you create a schedule that has icons, that you also include the words.  You want to expose the child to the written word as much as possible so that eventually you can fade the picture away to transition to a written schedule. 
A great way to do this over time, is to increase the size of the font and make the picture smaller. 
Now as far as orientation, you can have a vertical schedule or a horizonal schedule.  You can even have the schedule covered up so they only see some of the schedule at a time.


Written visual schedule for students with special needs

4. Written Schedule:

This is a great schedule to use in secondary education.  Right now, most of my students can handle a written schedule, but they choose to have it on a dry erase board in the front of the room.  When they are done with an activity, they can erase it and not see it anymore.  They prefer to see their schedule disappearing.


5. Binder Schedule:

This schedule is meant to benefit those kids who travel between the general education classrooms and the special education classrooms.  This is also a great option for secondary students who are attending multiple classrooms and subjects throughout the day. 

6. Checklist Schedules:

I use these types of schedules in conjunction with other types of schedules.  For example, if my student is struggling with the end of the day routine, I might write it all done as a checklist and that way they can go through the list and checkoff what is done.  However, we want them as independent as possible and if a paraprofessional is supporting them throughout the entire end-of-the-day routine, then we know that we need a system in place to get them to do it themselves.


7. Real Photo Schedule

This type of schedule is when you are using actual photos of the centers, people, classrooms and other things that are found in the school.  These photos should be something that the child sees everyday.  For example, if your student is going to art class, the image on their visual schedule should be of the actual art class or the actual art teacher.  Not a clip art version or a Board Maker version, but a real photo.

8. Mini-Schedules

I put these types of schedules within the student's schedule. 
For example, if the students schedule says they have math next.  They will walk to the math center and in that center there might be a mini-schedule waiting for them.  This mini-schedule is showing them what we expect them to do at the math center. This schedule can be a checklist, a picture schedule or even a written schedule on a whiteboard.  However, you should be using mini-schedules all throughout your day!
I have some visual schedules available in my TpT store, you can grab those HERE!


9. Mobile Schedule (schedule on their phone)

This type of schedule is something that you should be striving for, for all students.   I see this type of schedule most often with high school students, as it is very age-appropriate to be using a cell phone to see what is happening next in your day.  We, as adults, do this all of the time by checking our Google calendars or even our email to let us know what is happening next. 

10. Traveling Schedule:

I see schedules that can travel all of the time.  I have seen felt (4 foot) schedules with large picture icons that they can walk with around the school and classroom. 
For instance, seen mini visual schedules inside of a planner for some inclusion kids. 
Don't forget that schedules don NOT need to be posted inside the classroom and never move.  You want to think about the freedom a traveling schedule has for the student. 
BONUS:  You can mix any of the above schedules.   Its up to you and the student to decide what schedule is the best fit. 

The important thing to remember is that not every student in the classroom needs a matchy-matchy, cute picture schedule.  Individualize the schedules.  Hey, maybe every student has a different schedule.  Now that would be great!




10 types of visual schedules for special education classrooms

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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