Implementing Visual Schedules

Visual schedules can be a powerful tool for helping students be more successful and independent in their school day. There are many different types and ways to use schedules in your classroom.

Visual schedules can be a powerful tool for helping students be more successful and independent in their school day. There are many different types and ways to use schedules in your classroom.      Schedules are easily adapted to fit the needs of your student. They can also be used to teach students important concepts such as dealing with change, time concepts and flexibility. Teaching students to use a schedule is a good organizational strategy and can greatly help students who struggle with anxiety.


Schedules are easily adapted to fit the needs of your student. They can also be used to teach students important concepts such as dealing with change, time concepts and flexibility. Teaching students to use a schedule is a good organizational strategy and can greatly help students who struggle with anxiety.

It's important to keep in mind that schedules are not one size fits all. The format, portability, size, length, etc. can and should be tailored to each individual student.


Common forms of schedules include....

  • The most basic type of schedules are object schedules where activities, groups, therapies, etc. are represented by an object. This type of schedule is great for students who don't yet understand that pictures and words have meaning. 



  • Another option for early learners would be using photos of the item, group, therapy, etc. Typically, I pair the photo with a simple word or label. 



  • One of the most common types of schedules in a self-contained classroom is a picture schedule. These icons typically contain a picture paired with 1 or 2 words, as seen below. Click the picture to see the set I use from Autism Classroom Resources.






  • Once students are able to read simple words and phrases with comprehension, I usually move students to a written schedule. Here is an example from a student who has been taught to use picture schedules and is now ready for words. I use schedule visuals from Autism Classroom Resources in my classroom. She makes it so easy! Check them out HERE


Or you can have the student write their own schedule:

Visual schedules can be a powerful tool for helping students be more successful and independent in their school day. There are many different types and ways to use schedules in your classroom.      Schedules are easily adapted to fit the needs of your student. They can also be used to teach students important concepts such as dealing with change, time concepts and flexibility. Teaching students to use a schedule is a good organizational strategy and can greatly help students who struggle with anxiety.



  • For students who understand how schedules work and can handle more visual busyness, I use weekly and monthly schedules. 


It would be wonderful if deciding on the type of schedule a student needs is all you need to think about, but there is more! Here are the areas I think about to guide how I am going to set up and implement the schedule.


Length: What length of time will the schedule in front of the student cover? For my very early learners, it may be only as long as a first/then pattern. For my higher students, it could be half or full day.


Portability: Where will the schedule be kept? Will it move around with the student? Will it be on a wall, an iPad, in a binder, etc.?


Size: What size should the schedule be so it is effective without being too overwhelming?


Staff support: How am I going to implement and teach how to use the schedule? How will we teach what each icon, photo, etc. means? If the student is on a first/then format or object level, who is in charge of setting up the next object? Who will set the schedule up for the next day?



There are a lot of different components to think about when it comes to schedules, but when implemented thoughtfully it can be so effective! It's worth the effort and time!!



Visual schedules can be a powerful tool for helping students be more successful and independent in their school day. There are many different types and ways to use schedules in your classroom.









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