Visual Schedules At Home: 3 Ways To Improve Transitions!

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young autistic boy holding a visual schedule at home

“Use visual schedules at home”. That is what you hear from your child’s special education teacher, speech/language pathologist, or other professionals. You may have read about visual schedules and visual supports, but aren’t sure where to start. These 3 tips will help you put things into motion to get going! After that, 3 ways to improve transitions will be addressed.

Tip 1: Choosing Pictures For Visual Shedules At Home

When you are told to “start using visual schedules at home”, it can be overwhelming. What step do you take first? The first thing to do is to find out if your child’s teacher is using a visual schedule at school. If so, what is working? Find out how many pictures are on the schedule at a time, and what type of pictures they use. Real pictures or clipart (cartoon type) pictures. Check and see if the school will send you a schedule like the one your child is using at school. You can also ask if they can print and laminate some pictures for home to help you get started! If you don’t have this support, don’t worry.

The basics of using a visual schedule, including some pictures, are included in this free Visual Supports Starter Set. A couple of great places to find pictures to use are Smarty Symbols and LessonPix. These both have thousands of pictures at your fingertips for an economical yearly membership cost. If you want to use real pictures with your child, you can use “google images” to find what you need. In addition, this blog post will give you some more information about visual schedules.

Tip 2: Learn How To Assemble The Visual Schedule

Visual schedules for home need to be assembled. When you assemble the visuals, it is best to laminate them. That way, they are durable. The best place to start is to ask your child’s teacher or therapist for help. They might be able to do this for you at school and send them home for you. If that isn’t an option, you can purchase a small laminator for home at a decent price (around $25). Next, you need laminating sheets. The other thing you want to grab is Velcro. These Velcro dots last a long time and are inexpensive! The last thing you need is a printer or somewhere to print the visuals. If you aren’t able to purchase a printer, do you have a friend or family member that will help you out with this? You can also print in color to Fed Ex or other printing stores. They laminate there too!

an adult pointing to a picture on a visual schedule

Tip 3: Model The Visuals

Your child won’t immediately understand a visual schedule. Start by putting pictures on the schedule and narrating what you are doing. “Oh look! It’s time to each lunch” and point to the lunch picture. Then, after lunch, take the picture off and say “all done lunch”. Continue to do this throughout the day. Start small. Don’t feel like you need to do this for each and every activity all day long. Identify a few key activities that happen each day and focus on those. Examples are breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner, playtime, tv time, outside, bathroom, and going in the car. Then, add in more as you are ready!

Once you get the visual schedule put together, here are 3 ways to use it to improve transitions.

Be Proactive

  • Show your child what is coming next ahead of time. For example, if your child is playing with trains, and you want them to come eat lunch, don’t surprise them with the picture on the schedule. Bring it over ahead of time to start preparing them for the transition. You might say “3 minutes, then lunch”, and set a timer. Go back over after a minute and show them the picture on the schedule again, and say “2 minutes, then lunch”. This way, you are reminding them three times about the upcoming transition, while showing the child the picture. Over time, they will understand the routine, and will become more independent. You will not have give as many reminders once they know the routine.

Use An All Done Bucket

  • Pair the visual schedule with the “all done bucket”. An all done bucket is so helpful when children are playing with favorite toys or items. The way an all done bucket works, is that you set a timer to let your child know how long they have left with their toy/item.  Give reminders, as noted above.  Then, when the timer beeps, help them place the object into the all done bucket.  This may be difficult at first, but once this is done consistently, it becomes part of their routine, and you will see less resistance. When your child is less resistent to leaving activities, they will become more independent with their visual schedule. You can find a free “all done” symbol and more information in the Visual Supports Starter Set.

Match Pictures To A Location

  • Tape or adhere a picture at the location you want your child to go to. This way, they can match picture to picture. This will help them learn where they are supposed to go, thus making them more independent. To implement this, have your child take the picture off their schedule. Then, help guide them to the location (table for snack time). Tap your finger on the table picture to bring their attention to it, so they will match their picture to it. I’ve taught many, many 3 year olds with autism how to do this. Once they’ve “got it”, they become independent quickly! This concept is explained more in-depth in the Visual Schedules For Special Education resource.

Watch the replay of the FB Live Mini-Training on using Visual Schedules At Home: on YouTube, or on Facebook.

Don’t forget to grab up your free Visual Supports Starter Set. Just follow the link, sign up, and I will send it to your inbox!

a photo showing several visual supports for young children with autism

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