Visual Schedule for Autism


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Using a visual schedule for autism helps bring order to the chaos at home.

Example of a visual schedule.

When Lucas was 6 years old and still using pictures almost exclusively to communicate, his teacher and speech therapist helped me to make a visual schedule to use at home.

Visual Schedule + Autism = Less Chaos!!

His classroom used a visual schedule for autism spectrum disorder students, to prepare the children for what was coming up during the day. They had a visual schedule system posted on the walls, and each child also had one on their desk. So I said, "why not at a visual schedule at home?"

With a visual schedule, autism became a little more manageable. Using the Picture Exchange Communication System that he used at school, Lucas could see what was expected of him in a way he could understand.

The first visual schedule we used was on a piece of a manilla file folder, and was taped to our kitchen wall. It had a strip of Velcro down the middle of it, and an envelope at the bottom of the strip of Velcro with the word "FINISHED" on it. The one shown is a typical "after-school" visual schedule for Lucas:

visual schedule for autism

From the top to the bottom, it lists:


Take a walk

Car (we had to pick up his brother)

Set table



After each item was finished, Lucas had to put the picture into the "Finished" envelope at the bottom.
Of course, we used different picture symbols depending on the day or time of day.

Once all the pictures were in the "Finished" envelope, Lucas would receive his chosen "reward". For instance, once Lucas finished the items on this schedule, he could watch his evening television shows, or play with Legos.

It took about two weeks of daily work to get Lucas to accept using his new home visual schedule, (autism means it takes time to adapt to something new). But my, how our home life changed once he came to accept it!

He seemed to be able to relax, and to accept things that were planned. We eventually worked in items like Church on Sundays, and trips to the store on Saturday mornings.

Lucas began to understand the written words on the symbols, so the next style of visual schedule autism adjusted to was a chalkboard:

visual-schedule with words added

This is the same list as the in the visual schedule above, but with words instead of pictures.

At the top, we have written:"I am working for" and pictures of things he enjoys (read book, video, play outside, Legos, computer, etc.) are Velcro'd at the side of the board. Lucas could pick a picture and put it at the top (via a Velcro dot).


When the list was finished, he got to do whatever he had picked as a reward. reward section of visual schedule






The pictures we use for our visual schedule are Mayer-Johnson symbols, which is what the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) uses.

Using a visual schedule, autism didn't rule our lives nearly as much at home, as Lucas learned to accept doing more and different things.

In the beginning, we had to be very patient while Lucas learned how to use the new visual schedule at home, and started with just 2 items on his first week or so of using his new visual schedule. Autism makes learning anything new take time.

Lucas was praised and rewarded when he completed whatever was on the schedule, and when he figured out that he would not get to do anything else until he completed the schedule, he gave in and began to use it.

He began to look forward to getting the rewards, then to picking his own rewards when we switched to the written schedule. Of course, he eventually began to add his own items, like replacing "take shower" with "Toys R Us"! What an accomplishment for a child like this!! (We would then have to acknowledge his request, but tried to work it into the reward for other work done, maybe on a Saturday.)

Other ideas for using a visual schedule for autism are everywhere in your home, and you'll find that life becomes SO much easier:

A visual schedule for the bathroom Visual schedule can be seen from the toilet and the sink.

We used this visual schedule in the bathroom once Lucas became toilet trained, just to make sure he remembered ALL the things he needed to do (toilet, flush, wash hands, dry hands), and the correct order to do them in!
As you can see, we framed it, and kept it small to help it look a little better.

But don't stop with visual schedules for autism...There are other great "visual" ideas for helping those with autism to learn and be safe, making your life AND theirs easier!
For instance:

Thermometer for teaching temperature and how to dress for it.
Teaching temperature and how to dress for it is easy using a very visual Apparel Indicating Thermometer.

I hope these ideas help you to take the plunge if you haven't yet begun to use a visual schedule or any other schedule for your child at home. Once you get through the initial battle, you will be SO glad you did this!!

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