Visual Schedules in Autism Classrooms
I don’t know about you, but I am a visual person. I have post-its and doodles and things all over to remind me of what I need to get done. And the truth is visuals help most people… ever sit through a training where the slides were nothing but words? Torture. So why wouldn’t we have visual schedules for our students?
“Where do I go?”
Let’s check your schedule!
Having a visual schedule helps students a lot. It helps students figure out where to go and also helps figure out what to do when they get there! There are a few perks to having personal schedules for students (beyond what is generally posted in the classroom).
Personal schedules are useful because they:
- Help with smooth transitions
- Lessen anxiety by increasing the predictability
- Teach receptive language skills
- Help students learn flexibility
- Give meaning to places in the building, classroom, or in a student’s world
- Help to establish a routine for a student and their support staff
- Minimize some behaviors (since a student knows what is coming)
- Help students to organize their day which increases attention to the current task
Visual schedules in Autism classrooms are so important, but schedules are NOT one size fits all. What schedule options do you have out there? Let’s talk about a few…
Types of Visual Schedules
There are several types of visual schedules in Autism Classrooms… but one that is a non-negotiable is the Macro Schedule.
Macro Schedules: These are the big idea schedules for the classroom. If you are running on a bell schedule or using class periods, this is a must have.
This can include the times or may not- that will depend on the needs of your students.
Micro Schedules: These are the smaller schedules that may help a student define a smaller amount of time, like a specific class period or specific lesson.
These are better for students who need more reminders or lots of task prompting.
List Schedule: This is what a lot of us use to get through our days- it is a laundry list of things that need to get done. Students do not have to do them in order, but they all have to get done within a given amount of time. With this example, the student has text with visual supports. It doesn’t all have to be in icons to be useful!
First-Then Schedules: These are more helpful with students who need intense prompting, schedules that allow for a preferred and nonpreferred activity to be paired, and students who lack long term recall. There is a free printable available here if you are interested in using this format in your classroom!
To Do-Finished Schedule: Similar to a list format, this is a list of activities that we do where sequence matters, like brushing teeth or setting up a math equation… there is just a certain way it has to be done. You can print off this FREEBIE-(ToDo-Finished via NoodleNook.Net. TOTALLY FREE PRINTABLE!) just put Velcro in the gray box and create icons of your choosing. Ta-Da!
Sequence Schedules: I personally love this FREE Printable (Sequence Schedule via NoodleNook.Net) for the sequence schedule. Again, this is something that needs to be done in a certain order and is very much like the TO Do-Finished schedule. It is the perfect visual schedule in Autism classrooms and really any student can benefit from this visual when learning a new skill.
Transition/Destination Schedule: Sometimes we need a schedule to get a kid up and move them from place to place. This destination-type schedule allows a student to get their icon or visual and locate the place in the classroom that goes along with it. There is a version here so you can see it up close and the image below. So, for example, a student would bring their icon for teacher time to the teacher at her station- which is great! It trains not only the schedule, but where they should go and, hopefully, cue the desired behavior. Perfect if you are doing station rotations, centers, or work systems in your classroom. Check out the one from NoodleNook HERE!
Setting up a Structured Classroom
When it comes to setting up a Structured Classroom in LIFE Skills or an Autism Unit, Visual Schedules are just be beginning. You will also need:
Check out the posts where we talk about these things and more by clicking above. Also take a second to read about ABA and Autism– It will help you as you are setting things up or reestablishing your classroom procedures and routines.
Visual Schedules in Autism Classrooms
The number one thing you have to remember is that nearly all students in this setting (of LIFE Skills and Autism Units) need a visual schedule of some kind. So no matter which one you pick, be sure to put it in place, teach a student how to use it, and then reinforce them as they follow it!
Bottom line is you absolutely need visuals in your autism classroom. You need them to define the space along with the physical structure, you need them to establish a schedule and routine, and you need them to support your instruction.