Individuals with autism have a difficult time during unstructured activities and benefit from having a structured daily schedule. Visual schedules allow our students to identify what activities are coming next and the order of activities throughout the day, allowing for an easier transition. Visual schedules can be used during the school day and at home. Having a daily schedule increases the student’s flexibility, reduces challenging behaviors, helps the student remain calm during transitions, and increases independence. Using a schedule minimizes the number of verbal prompts given and the need for someone to guide the student to the next activity. A few examples of visual schedules include “go here”, visual, horizontal, and written.
Typically, when a student is learning how to use a schedule, most often they start by using a “Go Here” schedule. The teacher/parent carries the daily schedule in the form of picture cards with them throughout the day. The teacher/parent will show the picture card to the student while simultaneously saying “Go Here” (i.e. teacher shows the lunch picture card while saying “Go here”, the student then walks to the lunch table). The student then walks to the activity seen on the picture card. At first, the teacher/parent may have to guide the student to the area until they start pairing the picture card with the specified area. Once the student can independently use a “Go Here” schedule (walk to specified area when shown the picture card), they can start using a vertical or horizontal schedule.
A vertical schedule is typically placed on the wall and has picture cards in order of the student’s schedule. At the end of an activity the timer goes off signaling the student to check their schedule. The goal is for the student to walk over to their schedule, flip over the activity picture card that was just completed, identify the next activity, and walk to the area independently. As with any schedule, this may initially need prompting. A horizontal schedule is very similar, however instead of the picture cards going from top to bottom, the picture cards would go from left to right. A horizontal schedule can also be placed on the wall or be carried around with the student.