A visual schedule uses pictures, icons, words, or objects to show the order of activities or events that will happen. A visual schedule is a simple yet powerful tool for helping toddlers and children stay organized and understand what to expect and when. It can also help children stay focused and on track with their tasks. In this blog, a NAPA pediatric occupational therapist is here to share the benefits of using a visual schedule for all toddlers and children, including children with autism. We’ve also included 10 tips for creating your own visual schedule customized to your child or toddler, helpful apps, and visual schedule templates. Let’s dive in!
Visual schedules for kids can help them develop important organizational skills, have an easier time transitioning between activities, and better understand what tasks need to be completed. Visual schedules help kids understand how to manage their time and can provide a sense of security and structure. It can also be a way for children to communicate better with others and for caregivers to communicate better with children.
For children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), they may have more difficulty following verbal instructions, expressing their needs, or understanding expectations. Studies have found that individuals with autism tend to show increased responsiveness when information is presented in a step-by-step visual format compared to an auditory presentation.
Below are some visual aids that we use, as therapists, at NAPA!
First-then boards help with the ordering of tasks. You can experiment with trying a child-driven task followed by adult chosen activity or vice versa.
Daily or morning routine visual schedule board tip: Add a piece of Velcro to the back of your images! That way your child can move it over to the “done” section, once completed!
Tips for creating a visual schedule with your child:
Websites that offer templates for schedules:
Below, find our top 3 apps (of the many available options) for visual daily schedules.
An app that helps you plan days. Offers over 130 icons to graphically symbolize the tasks, the ability to add your own pictures, mark tasks as completed, a full-screen task timer, and alerts to remind you when the activity was planned to start. There is a free version of the app that contains some limited functions. Full versions can be purchased.
An app for building your own daily schedule using over 180 images and audio clips, or custom audio clips recorded by the user. Choiceworks includes a setting to have your phone or tablet read the schedule aloud. The app allows users to create multiple profiles for multiple individuals and create an unlimited number of schedule boards that can be printed and used non-electronically. In addition to the visual schedule features, the app also includes features to teach waiting skills and emotions.
Gives you the ability to create visual schedules and checklists and includes 100+ pre-built routine templates, 50+ video learning modules, AAC talker, language learning games, finger dexterity games, token board economy, emotional regulation and check-ins and daily weather.
Serena Patel is a pediatric physical therapist at NAPA Center Los Angeles who received her DPT from Duke University. Outside of her love for kiddos, she enjoys spending time outdoors with her friends and family, reading or baking delicious goodies. Having been trained in dance, she also appreciates sharing her passion with other kids through teaching occasional classes at her old studio!
At NAPA Center, we take an individualized approach to therapy because we understand that each child is unique with very specific needs. We embrace differences with an understanding that individualized programs work better. For this reason, no two therapeutic programs are alike. If your child needs our services, we will work closely with you to select the best therapies for them, creating a customized program specific to your child’s needs and your family’s goals. Let your child’s journey begin today by contacting us to learn more.