Visual schedules are receptive communication tools that provide information about an event, location, and time. They can be used to display a sequence of planned events in the order they will occur and use symbols (pictures, text, photographs) that are easily understood by the student. As teachers and parents, it is essential to never assume a child “knows” the daily schedule or where they are supposed to be. When students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are unaware of their schedule or what happens next, there may be an increase of unpredictable, challenging behaviour.
Much of information provided within a classroom is done verbally. Many students, especially those with ASD, are unable to process and remember a long list of verbal information. Visual schedules are used to help the students who process visual information more effectively. The visual schedule can bring structure and predictability to the child’s day and can be extremely effective in decreasing unpredictable behaviour. It also promotes and increases motivation to complete less desired tasks and provides visual reminders that preferred activities are scheduled within the day.
The use of a visual schedule can assist students with ASD to comprehend abstract time concepts, such as later, next, or last. It can help transition from one activity to another, increase independence, teach the importance of organization, and increase inclusion. In addition, it can help children with ASD become flexible with changes or adjustments in the schedule. Teachers can introduce a change in schedule using a “change card” or the word “change” within the visual schedule. During the introduction to the “change” concept, change should occur from one preferred activity to another. When the student is able to accept the change and remain self-regulated, then non-preferred activities can be introduced.