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Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Implementing a Visual Schedule

http://www.autismschedules.com/Time-Teller.html
Most teachers have made use of the visual schedule in their classroom but too often we don't think about how we can make simple adaptations so the visual schedule becomes more effective for our special needs students.  As we think about implementing visual schedules for our special needs students here are some things to keep in mind.  


1)  Personalize the visual schedule to the cognitive level and need of the student.

Visual schedules can range from physical objects to real life pictures to picture and words to just words.  The visual schedule can be quite general or specific.  Mix this with our unique special needs student and unless our visual schedule is well thought out it will be a waste.  Sometimes a bathroom break can be more effectively communicated by a toilet paper roll or key chain sized toilet.  For more congitively able children the concept of time through drawn clocks or written numbers can be added.  Know where your student is developmentally and personalize the schedule according to this.

The needs for the visual schedule also vary greatly.  Some special needs students will be able to follow the general class' visual schedule if only the visual schedule includes some basic pictures.  Some students will need a visual schedule on their individual desk.  This is especially true if the special needs student is being pulled out for resource/therapy sessions during the school day.  Still other students will need just certain parts of their day broken down.  Recess and outside lunch times are often difficult for students with social difficulties.  A visual schedule on a ring with specific activities to complete could help greatly.

2)  Teach the visual schedule purposefully and intentionally.

A visual schedule at the front of the classroom cues most students as to what will be happening during the day but the special needs student is likely to gloss over what is on the board.  The teacher needs to purposefully and intentionally teach the visual schedule to the whole class and to the individual special needs student.  This can be as simple as the teacher flipping over or erasing the activity after it has been completed and verbally announcing he/she is doing so.  If the student is off task during the activity time, the teacher could redirect the student by referring to the visual schedule.  Students with an individual visual schedule can place finished activities in a "finished" pile or cross out the activity themself.  The more the schedule is referred to the more the special needs students will learn how to independently use the visual schedule and to move to more abstract schedules.

3)  Allow for variation within the visual schedule.

Some special needs students will adhere rigidly to the visual schedule once it has been implemented. There is a need for variation within the visual schedule.  A special assembly or event can be denoted by a picture with a question mark.  There are also many times in the classroom when disruptions throw the schedule off or the schdedule is not jiving with the

vibe of the classroom that day.  The teacher can use a natural break in the day to change the schedule or take the special needs student aside to explain the need for the change.


A visual schedule only holds its value if it is being used.  When used the visual schedule holds the power to focus our special needs student on the task at hand and to transition our special needs students between activities faster.  Behaviour issues can be minimized as students know what is expected and what to anticipate.  For more ideas on different types of visual schedules, head over to our Visual Schedules Pinterest board.

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