A Visual Schedule is a tool that can contain pictures or written words to help a child understand the plan for a period of time. This can help them prepare for upcoming activities, which can help with transitions. Adults use visual schedules all the time – often we just use words, such as writing a To-Do list for chores or work tasks. This helps us feel more organized and helps us keep track of our activities and plan our time effectively. The same is true for children!
Visual Schedules can be useful for:
- Common routines such as a morning routine, toileting routine, or a bedtime routine
- They are very helpful when showing a change in the plan to help the child prepare
- Classrooms, where visual schedules help their students move through the day; knowing what is expected of them
- Breaking down tasks that have multiple steps (such as getting dressed)
- Increasing a child’s independence
- Providing some structure during unstructured time
- Helping your child stay regulated
Even if your child can read, it is helpful to use pictures in addition to words, as our brains process images differently than written words. There are thousands of templates out there for you to work from, or you can build your own at home with some printed pictures (laminated if possible to help them last!) and Velcro! If you utilize an iPad or tablet for your day to day tasks, there are many great Apps (free and paid) available to assist with visual scheduling.
OT tip: If your child struggles with organizing their belongings (such as school materials in a backpack) try using a luggage tag attached to the bag with images of what should belong in the backpack (e.g. binder, library book, agenda, lunch bag, pencil case etc.). This way, they have a tool they can quickly access to ensure they are ready for their day.