For many children (and especially children with special needs) routines and schedules are an important and comfortable element of the day-to-day. Kids like to know what’s coming next and what to expect. On our blog, we’ve suggested visual cues and schedules to help establish new routines and to help a child handle larger schedule changes.
Today, we’re going to look more closely at how to make a visual schedule for your child with Autism, why visual cues help, and how we use them in ABA therapy.
What is a Visual Support
A visual support is a picture or physical object that is used to aid in communication. It can be a photo, a drawing, a small object, or written words. A visual schedule is a pictorial representation of what is going to happen during the day or what to expect from a particular task.
Why Visual Supports are Important for Kids with Autism
Visual supports are a powerful communication tool and can provide cues for people with Autism. In ABA therapy, we use visual supports to teach new skills. For example, with task analysis skills that have a series of steps in them, we use visual cues to help a child have a visual reminder of the steps needed to complete the task.
Children with Autism often are uncomfortable with changes in routine and sometimes act out in unfamiliar situations. A visual schedule can be used to communicate what will happen next and what a child should expect. Communicating changes in routine and establishing expectations can help reduce anxiety and ease transitions between activities.
How to Make and Use a Visual Schedule
To make your own visual schedule at home, we recommend keeping it simple. We like to use basic pictures with words (you can draw them yourself or print them out from the internet). We recommend making anything printed a little more durable (laminating helps!) and saving images you use as backups.
We like to make visual schedules portable, when possible, by using a clipboard or binder so it can be with you when on the go. If you prefer, you can alternately choose a more fixed location, such as on a wall or the refrigerator.
As you make a schedule with your child, talk through what’s coming up and try to mix in favorite activities with those that are less preferred. When it’s time to begin an activity, have your child check the schedule to see what to expect. When an activity is complete, your child can refer back to the visual schedule to transition to the next task.
At Innovative Behavior Options, we frequently use visual supports as part of our ABA therapy plans, and we share our insights with and provide training for parents as part of our ABA services. To learn more about ABA therapy and how it can benefit your child with Autism, please give us a call at 770-250-0093.