What is a visual schedule?
A schedule consists of main activities to be completed during a particular timeframe. A visual schedule uses words or symbols (depending on your child’s level of literacy) to represent activities on his/her schedule.
Why should I use a schedule with my child?
When used consistently, a visual schedule has many potential benefits:
- Security and Behavior: Following a visual schedule increases the predictability of your child’s environment. Understanding what comes next, and when a particular event or activity is going to happen, increases your child’s feelings of security and helps them understand what is expected, as well as what to expect. Security and understanding of expectations, along with familiarity with a consistent schedule, may decrease behavior problems and increase engagement in the activity at hand. Increased engagement leads to increased attention and, therefore, learning.
- Independence: Knowledge of schedules increases independence. Visual schedules can be used to guide your child through through morning activities and routines. For example, if your child knows he/she eats breakfast then brushes his/her teeth (and understands what needs to happen to complete these routines – e.g., bring plate to the sink, then go to the bathroom, etc.), he/she is more likely to initiate these routines independently.
- Flexibility: Predictability allows children to more easily mentally prepare for changes in the regular schedule. If something outside the regular series of activities is going to happen, a visual schedule allows your child to mentally prepare for this change, making for increased flexibility (and smoother transitions to new activities).
- Receptive Language: Using a schedule increases your child’s immediate and overall understanding of linguistic concepts. For example, abstract time concepts (later, next, first, last, etc.) that are often difficult for children to understand or conceptualize are experienced firsthand, and can be visualized by looking at the schedule. Furthermore, using a visual schedule will help increase your child’s understanding of verbal directions, as it pairs visual cues with verbal directions, providing additional support to verbal direction.
- Pre-Literacy Skills: Using symbols and pairing them with words on your child’s visual schedule facilitates his/her understanding that symbols and words represent concepts. This is an important concept for future acquisition of literacy skills, as letters and words require an understanding of symbolism – pictures or graphemes represent concepts separate from themselves.
Try a visual schedule to help your child and see the impact it has!