When routines get rowdy, make visual schedules a habit.

Is it a constant struggle for your child with autism to follow morning and bedtime routines? Do you find yourself getting frustrated that it’s not a smooth process day in and day out? Visual schedules might be the answer you’ve been looking for!

A visual schedule is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a schedule with visuals that has a list of tasks or steps that need to be completed. The cool thing about visual schedules is that they can be individualized to the needs of your child.

Unlike a simple list that you’d make for yourself on a sticky note, visual schedules for your child should be colorful and attention-getting. They can include all pictures and no words, both pictures and words, an area for checkmarks or smiley faces once each step is completed, and other elements that will help them complete the tasks at hand. 

For example, a morning routine schedule could consist of the steps of brushing teeth, taking a shower, getting dressed, and making the bed. If your child is independent enough, they can “check off” each step after they’ve completed it. Otherwise, you can monitor the routine and help your child understand which step is next.

Don’t forget the rewards!

Pairing the use of rewards with visual schedules can also be helpful. Rewards can be used when your child completes some or all of the steps. It’s best to insert smaller rewards between each step and save the bigger, best reward for the end, when all the steps have been completed. This will help reinforce when your child has made appropriate transitions and is compliant with the schedule. Over time, as your child grows more independent and is used to following the schedule, you can fade (decrease) the rewards that are needed between steps.

Remember, visual schedules are meant to be fun! You can make them unique and special for your child, so they will want to follow the schedule versus it being just another task for them. And for you. Here are a couple examples of visual schedules to get your started. For more inspiration, checkout Pinterest.

The use of visual schedules is a learning technique based in ABA therapy. If you’d like to know about the expert ABA therapy services available at The Behavior Exchange, please let us know and we’ll put you on our schedule for an initial consultation. We can help!

Download these cute and playful checklists. Click here and here.

This blog post was written by Archana Thompkins, BCBA

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