Visual Schedules to Help with Transitions


Transitions can be tough for some autistic children. Moving from one activity to another (especially from a preferred activity to a non-preferred) can understandably cause frustration. Equally, not knowing what is coming next in their day, can cause anxiety. Most people thrive on routines, autistic or not. Visual schedules can be a powerful tool in helping autistic children and their caregivers navigate transitions and manage expectations more smoothly.

A visual schedule is a visual representation of activities or tasks in a sequence. It can be in the form of pictures, symbols, or words, displayed in an ordered fashion to show the sequence of events. Visual schedules provide a concrete and predictable way for autistic children to understand what will happen next.

Using visual schedules can help children in several ways during transitions:

1. Predictability: Visual schedules provide a clear outline of the day or activity, allowing children to anticipate what will come next. This predictability can reduce anxiety and help children feel more in control of their environment.

2. Visual support: Some autistic children have difficulty processing verbal information or understanding abstract concepts. Visual schedules offer a visual representation of tasks or activities, making it easier to follow along.

3. Routine and structure: Visual schedules help establish a routine and structure in a child’s day, which can be comforting and reassuring.

4. Independence: Visual schedules can empower children to take ownership of their day and tasks. By being able to reference the schedule on their own, children can become more independent in completing activities and transitioning between tasks.

To create a visual schedule, consider the following tips:

1. Use clear and simple visuals: Choose images or symbols that are easy to understand and relevant to the child’s daily activities. Use consistent images throughout the schedule to maintain predictability.

2. Break tasks into smaller steps: If a task or activity is complex, break it down into smaller steps with individual visuals. This can help the child better understand and follow the sequence of events.

3. Use a visual timer: Incorporate a visual timer into the schedule to help children track the passage of time and understand how long each activity will last. 4. Be flexible: While visual schedules provide structure, it’s important to be flexible and allow for changes or adjustments as needed. Some transitions may take longer or require additional support, so be prepared to adapt the schedule accordingly.

Overall, visual schedules are a valuable tool in helping autistic children navigate transitions more smoothly. By providing predictability, visual support, routine, and opportunities for independence, visual schedules can empower autistic children to better manage transitions and thrive in their daily activities. So, whether it’s getting ready for school, transitioning between activities, or preparing for bedtime, consider using visual schedules to make transitions easier.


University of Utah:
Title: Visual Schedules: Practical Guide for Families
Author(s): University of Utah

University of Nebraska-Lincoln:
Title: Virtual Strategies: Visual Schedules
Author(s): University of Nebraska-Lincoln

National Library of Medicine:
Title: Using Visual Schedules for Children with Autism
Author(s): National Library of Medicine

Indiana Resource Center for Autism:
Title: Using Visual Schedules for Parents
Author(s): Indiana Resource Center for Autism

Reviewed by:

Brandie Buckner
Brandie BucknerBCBA
Brandie Buckner BCBA, LBA holds her Master’s of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis. Brandie originally hails from California, and is currently serving as a BCBA in the greater Atlanta area. Brandie is passionate about making a difference in the lives of families with Autistic children. Being a parent of 2 Autistics, prompted her to serve within the Autistic community. Brandie began as an advocate, and quickly realized the barriers families face everyday. Brandie believes that each child should be given the opportunity to thrive, have access to available resources, gain personal independence, and move towards a life that provides purpose and pride in themselves. Brandie loves creating learning opportunities for children that help them grow, and enjoys working with parents toward socially significant goals, while providing empathy and respecting cultural differences. Brandie also holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Organizational Leadership, and was a two-time business owner before she became a military spouse. In the future, Brandie would like to create/expand resources for Autistics, beyond the early intervention age. Brandie has lived in various locations, she loves to travel, and enjoys the beauty of nature.

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