special needs schedules

The Importance of Visual Schedules

A Pictorial or Visual Schedule allows young children (with special needs or typical) to know what is coming next in their day. It takes away anxiety because they can “read” pictures with ease. Just as we adults read the clock, or our Smartphones in anticipation, children feel the same anxiety. They just show their anxiety by rolling on the carpet, touching other children, talking and “not sitting still.”

Before I explain how to set up a visual schedule, I want to explain what can happen if you don’t have one. Children with Asperger’s, Autism or even gifted children can become upset when they do not know what will happen next or when the teacher changes the schedule. Or, if recess is cancelled due to the weather-this can truly rock some children’s world! However, when you ALREADY (the key word is already) have a visual schedule in place-then you can actually add new things to the schedule and it will NOT upset your students. They will actually already understand that they follow the schedule and “oh look, there is something new on the schedule that I will follow now.” I PROMISE-it works! This is why I capitalized it!

I actually met with a behavior specialist and asked him why it worked so well. He explained that it works because of its consistency. If you look through the pictures below, you will notice a tiny little die-cut of a fire truck, Santa Clause, Pumpkin and more. These were all special events at my school this year. I popped those pictures on the schedule and instead of anxiety from my special needs children, they said “what’s that?” I explained what it meant and what we were doing. The day before, I also explained, as well. As we went to that activity, I also gave them their very own die-cut to hold. So, when the fire truck visited, I gave them a fire truck die-cut as their “ticket” to see it. As we walked to the truck-they were excited!

Ok-moving on…..this is how I set up and use my visual schedule:

I placed a long velcro strip on the wall (yes-it will pull the paint off-eek! but it is worth it). Then, I made these pictures using Boardmaker Software. I laminated them and then added velcro to the back. Then, I place the pictures in my order of the day from left to right. There are 11 pictures total. As soon as we finish one activity, we sing the song and I take off the picture and place it in a little yellow pocket nearby the schedule. As I am doing this, I sing this transition song “Lunch time is finished, lunch time is finished, lunch time it finished, NOW it’s time for Exercise (of course whatever is finished, you change the word each time).” My students like to sing this little rhyme with me too! To keep order in the classroom, I teach them that it is the teacher’s job to take pictures off the schedule.

The Fire Truck visited on this day.



I also put the fire truck die-cut on the calendar to show when it would be coming. Earlier that same week, we went to the farm for pumpkins. It could have been a stressful, crazy week-but it wasn’t. It was fun for all! Oh, the yellow star is our Library day visual reminder.



Santa Clause visited our School on this day. We also made Gingerbread cookies on the same day. This was definitely on a Friday!



This was our Polar Express movie day where everyone wore pajama’s, watched the movie and drank hot chocolate.




The Little Blue Christmas present below is what I used for our “School Christmas Sing Along.” Finding a die-cut for that was impossible. The present worked just fine.



Christmas Party Day – See the green Christmas tree?



Santa Clause picture day!



I hope this is helpful and please send me any questions. I’d be glad to answer them! Happy teaching! -Andrea