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Visual Schedules: How and Why to Use Them in the Classroom (page 2)

By — Autism Society
Updated on Jul 28, 2009

How Do I Use a Visual Schedule with Students with ASD?

The first step in using visual schedules is to design the format of the schedule based on the needs of the student. Teachers may consider the comprehension level, attention span, sequencing abilities and other skills a student demonstrates. Division TEACCH (Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communication- handicapped Children) identified five areas to consider when designing visual schedules for students (Cox & Boswell, 1999):

1. Form of Representation

Consider what form of information would consistently be most meaningful to the student. Staff may determine that objects, photos, icon drawings or words (or a combination of forms) are most easily understood by the student. For example, with a concrete learner, using Lego blocks to represent the play area may be most meaningful, while a photo of the play area may be appropriate for other students, and an icon representation of the play area may be meaningful for still others. It is important to select a form that would be understood by the student on his worst day (i.e. when there is a substitute teacher, when the bus is late, when recess is cancelled), as a student’s comprehension skills often may be compromised in times of stress or anxiety.

2. Length of schedule and presentation format

After determining how the information will be represented, staff must consider how much information will be presented to the student at one time. Some students may be most successful with one piece of information at a time, while others are able to be successful with a short sequence of activities or up to a full day of information presented at a time. It is important to assess the student’s ability to sequence information, the anxiety level of the student (presenting too little or too much information may cause a student to worry) and the student’s ability to handle changes in the information presented (if a full day of information is presented, it is more likely that unforeseeable changes will occur). Once length is determined, the classroom team must decide how to present the information to the student—one piece at a time, in a left-to-right or top-to-bottom format or multiple rows of information.

3. Methods of manipulating the schedule

The next step is determining how the student will move the schedule materials throughout the day. If the student is using objects to depict where to go, staff also may decide that the objects will be used in the activity (i.e., student will play with the Legos after arriving in the play area). Staff also may decide that students will carry the schedule item and match it to an identical item (e.g., object, photo, icon, word card) upon arriving at the assigned destination. Carrying schedule items to the location can often assist students in remembering where they are headed without additional adult reminders (i.e., asking students, “Where are you supposed to be?”), and provides reinforcement for students when they match the item to the corresponding container. If students no longer need to carry schedule information with them to a location, they may mark off the activity when it is finished.

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