What Is a Visual Schedule?
A visual schedule is like a sequential day planner that has pictures. Visual schedules can show the full day or just the next item in the day. Many of our students have visual strengths and understand better when they have visual supports. Visual schedules allow students to see their schedule in a way they are better able to understand.
When using Positivity™, the current event/activity will display along with the next two activities on the students’ schedules. Positivity allows you to personalize each visual schedule easily to meet your individual student’s needs. The visual schedule can be created as text-only or text with symbols or images, and can be displayed vertically on the left side of your screen or horizontally across the top of the screen.
Why Is a Visual Schedule Important?
Many students, including those with autism, often have difficulty with self-regulation and completing one step before moving on to the next step. Also, transitioning from more preferred to less preferred activities often takes time and support from adults. Often behavioral problems occur when the student is transitioning from a more preferred to a less preferred activity. Consistent use of a visual schedule allows students to see that their day happens in a sequence and less preferred activities are not avoidable, but there are also preferred events that will occur.
While some of your students may be able to memorize the events that occur during the day; life does not always happen in that exact sequence and this can lead to behavioral problems. Visual Schedules allow students to see what comes next, helping them to anticipate activities and transition when there is a change in schedule. Visual Schedules allow the student to review a visual representation of the day's events in sequential order to determine what is coming up next in their day, supporting students as they navigate their day.
Most of all, visual schedules promote independence in students as they move through their day. With a visual schedule, they are no longer dependent on an adult to tell them what they need to do next. Instead, they can check their schedule. This is a great job skill for students and important to teach while young.
Setting Up the Visual Schedule in Positivity
If you have a license to Unique Learning System (ULS) and have an existing Teacher Dashboard Master Schedule, the Positivity Setup Wizard will inquire if the same schedule should become your Visual Schedule. Select "yes" to use the Master Schedule as the events on your Visual Schedule. You will be prompted to add individual student master schedules in the ULS Teacher Dashboard if desired.
Beginning a new Visual Schedule is easy. Add desired Visual Schedule events in the Positivity Setup Wizard or at any time by selecting Schedules (1) on the left-side menu, then Add Event (2).
Implementing the Visual Schedule in Positivity
Preparing Visual Schedules
Use visual schedules with students who are beginning to respond to images, symbols and/or text. Students may demonstrate recognition of flashcards, matching symbols to objects, etc. Consistent use of a visual schedule can also foster recognition skills. The ultimate goal is for your student to be able to associate the visual on the schedule to an event and use the visual schedule independently to move through their day.
Positivity allows your student to see their current event/activity as well as the next two events/activities scheduled in their day. This will allow them to anticipate what is coming up next.
For students who have difficulty cleaning up and transitioning to the next activity, it can be helpful to build clean-up time into their schedule.
Introducing Visual Schedules
When introducing visual schedules, it is important to provide access, login or have students log in to Positivity on a device or interactive whiteboard. Point out the change in visuals for each transition opportunity. Consider having a staff member present during each transition to prompt the student to begin the next activity as needed, fade the prompts as the student shows independence. You can add events as needed such as a reminder to clean up in between activities.
If prompting is needed, stand behind the student and provide the minimum prompting necessary to assist the student in transitioning from one activity to the next. Standing behind the student allows the student to see themselves doing it rather than a staff member doing it for them. Use only necessary speech when transitioning as this will assist in achieving independence in schedule use (e.g., If a student is transitioning to the math area, the staff will say “Math” instead of “Johnny, look at your schedule. It says it is time for Math. What do we do when it says Math?”). Then assist the student in transitioning to the appropriate area and showing them where to put their technology so they will notice when the next event/activity pops up on the screen. Provide prompts as needed for student success.
Positivity Visual Schedules should be used routinely and consistently throughout the day at each transition. Once a student can follow a schedule, then you should teach the student systematically how to cope with changes in their schedule.
If there is a temporary change to the schedule one day, such as an assembly, the teacher should review this change with the student at the beginning of the day before the new event/activity shows up on their Positivity Visual Schedule. In an ideal world, we would be able to prepare our students for every change; however, sometimes we know things will come up that may change a schedule at a moment’s notice.
Before these real-time changes occur, you should train the students by using a “Schedule Change” card. These cards can be created in SymbolStix PRIME and printed to indicate a change in routine. A Social Narrative about changes in the schedule may also be helpful. See the Social Narrative Guide for more information.
More information on Schedule Change cards:
During the day, give the student a “Schedule Change” card on their desk and explain to them that the card will override their visual schedule.
- When you are introducing the “Schedule Change” card, the activities should be used during less preferred activities and changed to a preferred activity/reinforcing activity.
- Once the student is able to accept the change from a less preferred to a more preferred activity, present the “Schedule Change” card during a neutral activity and replace that activity with a different neural activity.
- Once the student is able to move from a neutral activity to a different neutral activity, then practice a “Schedule Change” that moves from a more preferred activity to a less preferred activity.
It is important to pair these changes with Positivity Incentive Strategies (see the Incentive Strategies Guide for more information.
- Davies, C. (n.d.) Using visual schedules: A guide for parents. Retrieved from https://www.iidc.indiana.edu/pages/using-visual-schedules-a-guide-for-parents
- Hume, K., Sreckovic, M., Snyder, K., & Carnahan, C. R. (2014). Smooth transitions: Helping students with autism spectrum disorder navigate the school day. Teaching Exceptional Children, 47(1), 35-45. Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/1560258809?accountid=166077
- Mesibov, G., Shea, V., & Schopler, E. (2005). The TEACCH® approach to autism spectrum disorders. New York, New York:: Plenum Press.
- Nelson, L. L. (2013). Using a mobile device to deliver visual schedules to young children with autism (Order No. 3601598). Available from Education Collection. (1466665759). Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/1466665759?accountid=166077
- National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders (2010). Evidence-Based Practices. Retrieved from http://autismpdc.fpg.unc.edu/content/evidence-basedpractices
- Hume, K. (2009). Steps for implementation: Visual schedules. Retrieved from https://csesa.fpg.unc.edu/sites/csesa.fpg.unc.edu/files/ebpbriefs/VisualSchedules_Steps.pdf