10 different visual schedules to support your autistic child

Visual schedules help autistic children know what’s coming up, so they can prepare and have a sense of control over the situation with no surprises. Visual schedules help with regulation and transitions, and also with the executive functioning related to organisation, time management and planning.

Here are 10 different visual schedules for home or school, to support your autistic child. Try them out and see what works for you.

1. At school – this then that then break

This canva template can be used at school to break up lessons into tasks and rewards/break. This helps prompt regulation breaks – physical movement or mental breaks (or one of the 50 brain breaks here). These breaks help provide motivation to complete the required tasks, with space to tick when it’s complete.

Create a canva template to make your own custom visual schedule. Laminate it so you can reuse it over and over with a whiteboard marker.

2. At home – daily visual schedule

These daily schedule notepads can be downloaded here in ocean and coral and original. For long days at home on the weekend or on holidays, it helps to create a schedule for the day. This allows kids to co-create the day, including breaks, meals, and all activities so there are no surprises. These daily schedules work a charm on holidays – transitions between activities are easy when the kids ask “what’s next on the schedule now?”

coral and ocean notepads

3. Velcro strip pictures

If you’re feeling crafty, a laminated page with a velcro strip down the middle can make a reusable schedule for part of the day. This works well for short segments of time, such as a 60 min session or after coming home from school.

Use it to set up routines, allocate times to certain activities, and to teach steps for different activities. You can combine it with a visual timer to support the transitions, and remove the activities after each one is completed.

4. Routine cards

Routines such as morning routines, after school routines, or bedtime routines can all be supported through visuals that show the steps. Routine cards can also be used to support smaller processes such as toileting. Activities like toileting often need to be explicitly taught so autistic children understand what needs to occur when.

These routine cards could be on a ring to be flipped through. Or, they could be laminated and stuck up on a wall in the order that they need to occur e.g. toilet routine steps placed on the back of the toilet door. Alternatively, they could be laminated and used with a velcro strip to create variations in routines as needed.

You can make your own, or source some from the thousands on etsy.

5. First + Then

The first + then table can be used for ASD and ADHD children to help focus attention on tasks, and give tangible rewards when tasks are completed.

For at home, this table might include FIRST – go to the toilet, have afternoon tea, complete homework THEN – do 30 minutes of gaming.

It’s a simple enough table that students can be taught to draw it up themselves as an executive functioning strategy at school. It could be on paper, or on a mini-whiteboard that can be carried around.

FIRSTTHEN

6. List and Tick

Using visuals/pictures or words, make a list of the tasks that need to be completed.

Draw a big square box next to each list item and tick in the box when each step is done.

Combine this with a visual timer to get things done in a sensible amount of time. You could also add times (10am, 11am) that each task needs to occur by to help with timer management.

This works well for chores, homework tasks, and simple routines. Check out the BACS homework guide if using this visual schedule for homework.

Try not to put too many items on the list too. 5-7 items is enough for cognitive load, and the less the better for younger kids.

7. Post it note schedules (to do | done)

Take a large A4 piece of paper and draw a vertical line down the middle. Write the headings To Do and Done in each column.

Use coloured post-it notes to write the tasks down and place them in the To Do column. Once their complete, move them to the Done column.

This easy visual is super quick to create and helps externalise and make visual the progress you’ve made.

8. Social Stories

Social stories are a different sort of visual schedule. They are generally used before an activity takes place, to explain what will happen, the expectations, and the steps to follow. There might be a social story for going to school, setting up the before school steps of putting on a uniform and packing the school bag, and outlining what the expectations during the day are. There could be a social story to explain toileting successfully, or going to sleep, or taking music lessons and practicing at home. Social stories often have pictures along with words – sometime in a comic strip – that visually explain the schedule in the future.

There are a number of free social stories on this website that are printable and free. You can also make your own with photos of your child doing the steps and putting them into a book.

9.Tracker schedule

Sometimes you need a tracker over the day to help prompt children to action. There might be a toilet tracker, an eating tracker, a drinking tracker, or a sleep tracker over a week.

A toilet tracker can be used as a reminder for toileting. Have pictures of toilets in a line, and tick when the child has gone to the toilet each time. If at school and struggling with toileting, put little written reminders like “recess wee” or “lunch toilet” or “afternoon toilet”. The ticks can be added with bluetack next to each timed toilet break to show it’s occurred.

10. Planner

week to a page

A big part of growing into adulthood is the ability to manage time both at the activity level, across a day, and long-term planning over a week, month and year. Using a planner, paper or digital, to schedule the day and week activities, set goals, manage to-do lists and remember special events, is a life skill that can be supported through a planner such as the Balance Planner.

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