Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and other developmental delays learn more easily, express more interest, have fewer behavior problems and demonstrate increasing independence within consistent routines.Visual schedules can assist students in understanding these routines, such as the transition routine.
Visual schedules can supplement natural environmental cues so that students understand the sequence of events when it is time to transition to a new activity. Schedules can answer important questions such as: Where am I going?, For how long?, What do I do next?. It tells the student “what to do” by focusing the student’s attention on the necessary information needed to move through their day.
Students should be provided with a visual schedule appropriate to their functioning level and should be expected to use their schedules independently. Learning to follow visual information independently teaches students to access important information for themselves, instead of relying on constant adult directions. This life skill can later translate into skills such as: following a GPS, written directions or a map, and signs at an airport or on the street. Whether beginning with object, photo, drawing or word schedules, visual schedules for transitions are easy to create and use within the school setting and more importantly, they work!
Here are a few tips for creating and using visual schedules with students:
1. Use a "check schedule" icon as an easy and effective way to remind the student to check their schedule.
2. There are a variety of visual schedule options depending on the student:
a. Visual cues can be objects, photos, drawings or written words.
b. Horizontal or vertical wall schedules are often used when initially introducing schedules to the student. Placing only one or two photos or icons on the schedule helps with introducing the schedule to the student. (Below is an example of a verticle wall schedule that is a flip chart, with additional pages pre-loaded with 2 icons per page. A good space saver too!)
c. Book schedules are portable and can be useful after the student understands the basic transition schedule routine. Attach a popsicle stick to the paper icon Place the icon in a pocket in a book (helps students hold onto the icon) or on a wall mounted schedule. d. Written and electronic schedules are easy to use and appropriate for the beginning reader.
3. Although students need to learn to follow the daily schedule, try to find times during the day when the student can make choices. Activities during recess, free time, or deciding where they will eat lunch are all possible choices students might make throughout their day. Provide a place on every student's schedule allowing them to choose their own activity once or twice per day.