Parenting - How to Create Effective Visual Schedules

Visual schedules can be utilized to help motivate children to follow basic routines and to assist with difficult transitions. Visual schedules often use images, symbols, photos or text to communicate a task or activity, the order of events and a timeline. Visual schedules can help children stay focused and on-task and limit the number of instructions provided to a child at a given time.

The Benefits Of Using Visual Schedules:
• Uses visual strengths and therefore provides a receptive communication system to increase understanding. Helps your child receive information in more than one form.
• Allows your child to see the sequence of events and can reduce symptoms of anxiety.
• Can help your child develop executive functioning skills (planning what needs to be done and organizing their time).
• Can help your child to learn new things and broaden their interests.
• Can increase your child’s flexibility and adaptability.
• Can help your child remain calm and reduces inappropriate behaviors.
• Can help you remain calm and re-direct your child to the task ahead.
• Can help your child to develop independence and self-esteem.

How To Create a Visual Schedule:
1. Select the routine that your child requires assistance with and start with only 1 routine at a time (e.g. morning, afternoon, bedtime, homework time, etc.).
2. Outline the steps of each routine and place them on the schedule. Be mindful of your child’s age, developmental level, interests and distractibility and choose the best visual format to display the steps (i.e. words, images, images with words, etc.). Be sure to only list one step at a time and do not group steps together!
3. Using specific times for each task is not recommended. Rather organize the steps in chronological order.
4. Place the steps on the chart and make space for each day of the week.
5. Allow an opportunity to the child to indicate which activities are completed and which remain.
6. Optional: create a reward at the end of each routine if a child earns every check mark. Rewards can be time towards electronics, free time, or tokens to work towards something.

How To Use a Visual Schedule:
1. Let your child know in advance that you will be implanting a visual schedule. Show your child the visual schedule and ensure that they can read or identify each step.
2. Practise through role-play how to complete each task and check-off or indicate that the task is completed.
3. Prompt your child to use the visual schedule once you begin. Give a standard phrase such as “check the schedule” to remind them.
4. If necessary, prompt your child from behind to look at the schedule, complete the tasks and check-off the task.
5. Be sure to verbally praise your child when they are using the visual schedule effectively!
6. If your child earns a reward when they have completed all tasks, be sure to praise them first and then always follow through on the earned reward.

Helpful Links:
Resource 1: How To
Resource 2: Using Visual Schedules
Resource 3: Reasons To Use Visual Schedules

visual schedule