I remember when visual schedules were made using polaroid pictures. It was back in 1997, and I was student teaching in Minnesota. I recently came across these pictures from the first visual schedule I ever used in the preschool setting. That was also the first time I had the pleasure of working with autistic children. While technology and visual schedules have come a long way since 1997, the ways they foster independence have not changed. Visual schedules can be used in a variety of ways. Working on adaptive skills should start as early as possible. It’s important to think about the future, and which skills we want them to be able to do by themselves.
Using a visual schedule in your preschool classroom is crucial. Typically, at that young age, autistic children have language delays. Because of this, using visuals will help increase understanding. In turn, this will provide them with consistency and predictability. These two things are so important when it comes to promoting independence! Our goal for all children is to become self-sufficient over time. With autism, it can be easy for children to become dependent on adults in their environment. So, we need to be very thoughtful about how we can teach some independence at a young age. In preschool, it is easy to just take the child’s hand and lead them to each activity throughout the day. But, we have to stop and think, “am I fostering independence”?. The answer is usually no. By putting pictures into a sequence, it is easier to decrease dependence on adults. Children with autism tend to be visual learners, and when pictures are combined with fewer verbal cues, it’s a win-win! There are many different resources out there for visual schedules, so find one you like and get started. I created my own visual schedule resource because I wanted colorful, more accurate images. It’s been a hit in my classroom this school year!
Another simple way to promote independence is by using visual sequences. A visual sequence breaks down an activity into smaller steps. Visual sequences are perfect for daily routines, such as the bathroom sequence, prompting the sequence of putting on winter gear, and washing hands. An example of how a bathroom sequence can be used is to hang it in the bathroom and point to each step. It is much easier to fade physical prompts (pointing to each picture) than it is to fade verbal prompts. You also need to check out this free set of quick visual cue cards for home. They will help with everyday routines, like getting into the car. So, be sure to limit the amount of talking, and let the visuals do their job!
Many times, a visual schedule needs to be portable. Having the ability to bring it with your student between locations within the school can be extremely helpful. Using a pencil pouch to create your own visual schedule is an amazing option! Simply add a strip of Velcro to the front of the pouch, and you have a durable schedule that is portable. For a quick tutorial on Instagram, check out this IG Reel, or watch the YouTube tutorial below.
Have you grabbed up this new Visual Supports Starter Set yet? Just follow the link, sign up, and it will be emailed to you! Within this free set, there is a starter visual schedule that can be used at home and at school!