How to Use Visual Schedules to Help Kids with Autism at Home

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If you have a child with autism, you know that one of the biggest challenges can be trying to get them to stay on task. One way to help make this easier is by using visual schedules to help them see how their day will go.

Visual schedules are a great way to show kids on the spectrum what their day will look like and when certain things are happening. In this blog post, we will discuss the benefits of visual schedules for kids with autism and how you can use them at home!

Benefits of Visual Schedules

The benefits of using a visual schedule are numerous and here are a few examples of how they can be helpful to both you and your child:

  • Helping Kids Stay on Task

When you use a visual schedule, you are giving your child a way to see what they need to do and when they need to do it. This can be a great way to help them stay focused and avoid getting overwhelmed. By giving the child time to process the order of what their daily activities will be, we can help them focus on accomplishing the current task without having to worry as much about what comes next.

  • Decreasing Anxiety Around Transitions

Many kids with autism experience social anxiety and visual schedules can help them feel more in control. In general, since the COVID-19 Pandemic, there has been a universal uptick in anxiety in kids and our kiddos on the spectrum can be feeling especially anxious during these times.

Often times, transitioning between activities or new places can be a major source of anxiety in kids on the spectrum. When you use a visual schedule, you are giving your child a way to see what is coming up next and what they need to do. This can help them feel more prepared and decrease stress about what is going to happen next throughout their day.

  • Generalization and Play

By controlling the anxiety through the use of a schedule and allowing our kiddos to know what’s coming next we are able to work on generalizing various skills such as using toys for imaginative play to help them learn.

Visual schedules also help kids with autism better prepare for school where they will have to get used to certain routines and complete academic tasks throughout their day. Schedules can also provide structure to help kids with ASD which can give them the confidence to engage with peers and lead to an increase in social skills both in school and at home with their siblings.

Visual Schedules at Home

If you are interested in using visual schedules at home, there are a few things you can do to get started.

  1. How to get started with a visual schedule – Typically clinicians will use pictures as a way to create storyboards that can help your child make associations between pictures and their upcoming activities. Check out this link on Pinterest to help give you some ideas and get started: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/694609942543303915/ and while you’re there be sure to check out the Blossom Children’s Center page for more information on tips for your child https://www.pinterest.com/BlossomChildrensCenter/_created/
  2. Have the visual schedule in a location that is easy to access for the child This makes it easier for your child to use as a resource and helps them get used to using their visual schedule to think about and plan for their day.
  3. Establish the routine Remember to start small (3-4 activities at first). Routines are beneficial for any child but it can be especially helpful for kids on the spectrum. To learn more about how routines can be a huge benefit see a previous blog for more information: https://blossomchildrenscenter.plugdigital.io/2020/08/06/the-benefits-of-routines-for-children-with-autism/
  4. Have your kiddo help you make the schedule By allowing our kiddos to participate in making the schedule we can get them interested and engaged with whatever activities you have coming up for them.
  5. Model the visual schedule –  Modeling is the best way to teach “how to” use a visual schedule. When transitioning from one activity to the next, point to, remove or cover up the task you’ve completed or are currently working on. Label the activity (ex- we are brushing our teeth!) out loud so you pair the picture with the word for the activity.

The more you model and narrate using the schedule, the greater chance your child will catch on

  1. Consistency is key –We all know the old saying about practice makes perfect. So While it may be more work to carry around and use the schedule in the beginning, it will become second nature if you incorporate it into everyday routines. Model and narrate until your child starts to approach the schedule themselves and make it part of their own daily routine.

Next Steps…

Now that you have these strategies to get you started you can work with your child on achieving their goals. However, it’s important to remember that we all need a little help sometimes. So if you’re feeling like you could use some extra guidance be sure to reach out to a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) who can offer you more help!

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