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Visual Schedules

Download this Tip Sheet

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Many individuals with an ASD are visual learners. This means they understand and remember information better when they see and hear it rather than just hearing it. To assist them in being comfortable with the PDP process using a visual schedule of the activities involved on that day may ease potential anxiety. It is important to note however that the use of a visual schedule needs to be taught prior to using it for PDP. Below are some tips on how to introduce a visual schedule.

Visual Schedules

  • What is a visual schedule? A visual schedule shows what activity is currently happening and what activity will happen next. A schedule might show two events or it might show several. It is based on what the individual will understand.
  • Why do visual schedules help? Visual schedules provide information that does not go away like words do. This allows the individual a longer time to process and understand the information. Visual schedules highlight the important information and provide predictability and structure.
  • Where do I start? You need to teach the individual to use the visual schedule using two symbols and showing the individual that the symbol is related to the activity. Gradually increase the number of symbols. Once the individual knows how to use the visual schedule, he or she may be able to sue it independently without support.
  • Where should I keep it? Keep the visual schedule in an area where the individual can see it and others supporting the individual can also use it. The individual with an ASD may need to have the schedule in an easily accessible location or have a smaller version to keep with them.
Tips for Using a Visual Schedule
  • Visual schedules use a symbol to represent an event. The following symbols are listed in order from easiest (most concrete) to most difficult (most abstract) to understand.
    • Real objects
    • Miniature objects
    • Colour photographs
    • Black and white photographs
    • Colour picture drawings
    • Black and white drawings
    • Written words
  • Start with the most abstract symbol you think the individual can understand (each person will be different) Once he or she understands the schedule, pair that symbol with the next, more difficult symbol and then fade the easier symbol (eg. real object faded to photograph of object). Always include the written word with other visuals.
  • Make the symbols on the visual schedule movable. This allows the individual to remove the symbol when the activity is completed. It also allows the person supporting the individual to show when a change in schedule has occurred by changing the symbols or using a “not available” overlay
    not available