Visual schedules are a powerful tool for teaching children with autism, increasing their potential to be independent members of society and decreasing stress and frustration in your daily life. I use real photo visual schedules daily at my ABA school in Paris and recommend families use them at home and teachers use them in the classroom. Learn how to make a visual schedule here.
What is a visual schedule?
A visual schedule, sometimes called an autism daily schedule or autism visual timetable, is a series of photos used to show the activities that your child or students will be doing in a visual way. Visual schedules help organize and present information in a visual way and help decrease frustration, and increase communication and comprehension, with individuals on the autism spectrum.
Benefits of using visual schedules with children with autism
1. They enable you to present information in a visual way.
This makes it easier for your child to understand. Individuals with autism have a strength in visual perception.
2. They show your child the order of events.
You can use visual schedules to visually show your child he needs to do one activity and then another, or to show him several activities that will need to be done during the day.
3. Organize the day and eliminate difficult transitions.
By organizing a full day visually, you will eliminate surprises during transitions that can stress your child and provoke meltdowns.
4. Reduce adult prompts and increase your child’s independence.
By providing visual information, you can reduce your guidance and give your child more independence.
5. They are completely customizable and therefore, meet the individual needs of your child.
I have included free printable photos for you to use in your visual schedule. You can use these photos, in addition adding your own to your visual schedule. These free printable visual aids for autism are a valuable tool for your home or classroom program.
6. Can be used across different environments – a visual system transfers into a general education setting/workplace to help your child function independently.
You can create visual schedules for home, outdoor activities, school, extracurricular activities, etc. A printable visual schedule for the classroom is a valuable tool.
7. They make you a more confident parent.
With your faithful visual schedules by your side, you will be able to feel confident in your ability to organize your child’s day and activities.
8. They give you more freedom to trust someone else to watch your child.
I often hear that families have trouble leaving their autistic child with someone else, such as a babysitter or family member. Get more tips to help you feel comfortable leaving your child with a babysitter here.
9. Makes it easier for teachers, school aides, therapists and parents to organize sessions and activities.
A visual system is easy for everyone in your child’s life to understand.
10. Produce a greater number of daily opportunities for learning.
All of the visual input available thanks to your child’s visual schedules, will increase the number of available learning activities each and every day!
How will using visual schedules impact your daily life with your child?
The greatest goal in using this type of visual support with children with autism is to decrease stress and increase learning.
Less stress and fewer meltdowns opens up the possibility of increased learning and fun
- You will have more time to have fun as a family.
- Your days will be less stressful.
- As a parent, you will have more energy to enjoy your family life.
How to get the most our of your child’s visual schedule
- I recommend using real photos.
- Make it consistent – using a visual schedule with your child regularly, will help him or her and your entire family reap all the benefits.
How to make a visual schedule
Making a visual schedule is quite simple. Learn my exact step by step system to make visual schedules for the day, the week, the month or even for just one table session in this post.
These are some of my favorite tools to create visual schedules
We have included affiliate links for your convenience. You can read our disclosure here.
- Laminator – I use a laminator to laminate photos and other images to add to the visual schedules I use in my ABA classroom and in private programs at my center. This is similar to the one I use and comes with 10 laminating pouches to get you started.
- Laminating pouches – laminating pouches are the plastic sheets that you use with your laminator. (If you purchase the laminator above it comes with 10 free laminating pouches.)
- Paper trimmer – When creating all of my visual aids, I use a paper trimmer to get nice straight edges. It’s also a lot faster than using regular scissors.
Visual Schedule Video
See a visual schedule in action in the video below!
These tools help reduce stress and increase learning too
- DIY Fidgets
- 25 Sensory Box Ideas for Kids with Autism
- Autism and Sign Language
- Autism Teaching Strategies
- Printable Eye Spy Games
- Autism Chew Toys – these tools will help you manage chewing behaviors at home or in the classroom
- Sensory Toys – the 10 sensory toys every child with autism would benefit from having
More Autism Resources
- The Successful Interaction with a Child with Autism Course – learn to better understand your autistic child or students with this complete course.
- Autism Activities Workbook Bundle – build communication skills, fine motor skills, sensory play skills and daily living skills, while helping your child or students to successfully manage any difficult behaviors, with these fun, educational, printable activities.
- Sensory Communication Workbook – Build communication skills with simple sensory activities.
- How to Make a Communication Binder Guide & Workbook – Learn how to create a Communication Binder for your child or student with autism using real photos. Follow my expert guide to learn how to use it to increase communication skills.
- Zoo Animals Play Dough Mats Bundle – use these printable play dough mat to work on the names of the animals, build language skills, and increase fine motor strength and precision in a fun, sensory way!
Benefits of Visual Schedules
First published January 16, 2018. Last updated March 22, 2021 with more information, additional tips, and better readability.