Creating an At-Home Visual Schedule

I cannot believe it's the end of May already. I cannot believe that school will be over in just a few short weeks. (Especially with all the snow days our school district ended up with this year, it feels like my kid should be attending make-up days well into July.)

I've mentioned before that my son really excelled this year, socially and academically, but we still notice a tendency to "give back" some of his gains as soon as he goes a few days without school or therapy. (And in his case, school IS therapy, as he only attended programs designed for special-needs kids.) So I'm really trying to be proactive about making sure that we carry over as much stuff from school as possible during the summer.

And I think I need some help, if you guys don't mind.

Noah will be attending a half-day camp for seven weeks this summer where he'll continue to get speech and occupational therapy with many of the same teachers and students he already knows. But this still leaves several long weeks of nothingness, save for playdates and maybe some out-patient therapy -- a far cry from the full day of structure and sensory activities he gets now.

I've dusted off my copy of The Out-of-Sync Child Has Fun and have marked off a few obstacle courses we'll make and sensory centers to build and fine motor activities to try. But I've realized one thing Noah has really benefited from (and gotten pretty dependent on) is his visual schedule.

Both of his programs use one and personalize it for him every day. His photo and name appear at the top and helpful squares of laminated clip-art are velcroed in the correct order to let Noah see exactly what he'll be doing that day. They are hugely helpful (HUGELY) in keeping his transition-related tantrums and anxiety under control, especially when we're talking about those pesky "non-preferred activities."

So I want to make one for him at home, to help give him the sense that his routine and day-to-day structure aren't going out the window. I've gone online and tried to figure out the best way to make one at home, and which non-school activities I should include on it (with limited luck -- most of the examples I could find were geared for teachers and the classroom, and others are just way, WAY too detailed). I've thought about buying one ready-made and I've stood befuddled in the arts-and-crafts aisles at a couple stores trying to figure out how to make one from scratch.

Because I kind of want to make one that's ... cute. One that I wouldn't mind being hung in a place of honor in our kitchen or some other visible and convenient spot.

I think Noah would also like it if I created schedules for everybody -- his brother, his dad, and I -- so he could see when Daddy will be coming home or when he and Mommy will get to do a special art project and so on and so forth. He really likes "managing" his classmates' schedules as well, so that's why I'm thinking family schedules would be kind of fun.

I should also mention that I have all the innate crafty DIY talent of your average garden slug.

So I'm wondering -- has anyone created an at-home visual schedule for their child or children? Would you mind ... sharing how you did it? Maybe some photos or link to a how-to post somewhere that I could see and blatantly copy from? Or just details on what day-to-day activities you included? Or whether or not you've even found an at-home schedule useful or helpful at all? 


autism, development & growth, developmental delays, fun & games, summer survival


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nonmember avatar Michelle

I think visual schedules are a great idea! My son's mainstream district preschool uses them.

Ok, I feel you on the lack of crafty or DIY skills but how about using your ipone and taking small photos to use? For example, pictures of the park/playground, him and Ezra coloring, the sitter arriving, daddy arriving home from work, mommy's laptop (for when you are working!), etc. Basically little snapshots of whatever you guys might do during the time he's not in camp.

My son's school laminates the little cards and then glues velco dots on the back. They actually just have a laminated strip with each kids name and 5 squares or so that the activities can be put on (using the velcro dots). But I would think you could use posterboard divided into lines for each family member and then attach velcro dots on each person's line so that 5-6 pictures can be added to the schedule.

Maybe Noah can help you the night before put everyone's activities on their schedule. So he gets that  the next morning he goes to camp, then the sitter comes to take him and Ez to the park, then coloring, then daddy is home, dinner, bath, story, bed. Voila!

nonmember avatar sarah

I second the photo option! Can he take pics with his iphone? Sometimes letting the kid do the task gives you a great excuse when it doesn't work out all Martha Stewart-y, and you can claim that it was a child-centered activity. 

There was a psychologist in my district who had created a GREAT functional assessment using photos:  of clothes (to assess what the child would choose given different weather scenarios), signs (stop, walk, etc), money, restaurants. We have a great ikea magnet board at our house - I could envision getting some of the sticky backed magnet tape to put on the back of the laminated pictures or just pics printed on card stock. The child development institute where I used to work used systems like this and the familiarity/specificity of the pictures really helped. 

nonmember avatar HereWeGoAJen

Maybe something like this?  They have customizable options and you could suggest that they add the schedules idea.  I have a set of these and they are really cute and well made.  Plus, they have the added benefit of being portable. 

Steph... Stephensmom1214

I like the idea of using photographs too.  In fact, I need to make a visual schedule for my little guy for the summer since he is now also out of his special preschool for the summer. 

I do wonder, however, why Noah can't get ESY since you said he regresses a bit in the summer?  That's why we DIDN'T qualify!  Summer camp sounds like a ton of fun for him, though!

nonmember avatar Mouse

The visual schedule is one place where we fall short, both at school and at home.  I am forever meaning to make one for him, but suspect that my expectations are too high to get started--I feel like I need to have every card figured out ahead of time and standing by.  Plus I start thinking about getting all fancy in terms of velcro vs pockets, etc.


You might ask at the preschools if they know of any online resources for this or if they'd even print up some cards.  We had this offer back when our son was in the developmental preschool here, but never got our act together enough to give them the list.  (We'd just moved and were overwhelmed with all of that.)

nonmember avatar fiver

Hi there!  I'm such a fan (starting with the pregnancy blog - thanks!)  Also a professional in behaviour support, soooooo......  My opinion is to stick with the kind of symbols he already knows, ie. clipart, Boardmaker whatever.  Switching to photos might make it harder for him to process the information, so stick with what he is already comfortable using.  Any chance your school or SLP could print off some extras for you and you could deal with cutting and laminating?  Also good to have the schedule be portable, especially since it helps him to deal with transitions (eg. if he needs help remembering what will happen when he gets home after the park, it would be most useful to be able to actually bring the schedule with you to the park).  One cheap and easy format is a pencil case with the velcro dots on the outside for the symbols of upcoming events, then once activities are finished, you can take the symbol off and put it away in the zipperec compartment (and also store extras for any activites that may pop up and surprise you, that way his schedule can always be changed to show last minute additions etc).  You don't usually have to include every little thing in the day, but it is usally good to include meals as that gives a clear idea about time (kids don't know time, but they do understand roughly how long an outing is going to be if they will be home in time for lunch).  Good luck!!!!

amalah amalah

About the ESY - that's probably my biggest complaint about our district. The level of need for ESY is really, really high and generally off the table for a kid like Noah with milder challenges. Biiiiig disparity between the number of kids who receive services Sept to June and the kids who get help in the summer. It's mostly for kids who spent a huge chunk of the school year in the hospital or have really profound needs. I was really shocked that he didn't qualify last summer (his IEP started too late for the school year so I assumed they'd want him in ESY, but no), so I definitely wasn't expecting anything different this time around. 

Steph... Stephensmom1214

That's disappointing.  We were at first told that Stephen didn't qualify because he wasn't delayed enough, and that all of the kids in ESY were non verbal.  I reminded his teacher that he IS basically non verbal, but she said he is too advanced, and not at risk to regress (which is true), but I still would have liked SOMETHING.

I hope we all get our visual schedules worked out!

smhorman smhorman

How about this ( You can customize it however you like and print one for each of you or however you want to do it.  You can put each family member's name as the column heading and the time of day as the row headings.  Then print out your chore icons and glue them on.  Or make it a weekly chart.  Or both.  Or neither.

Okay...I'll shut up now.

smhorman smhorman

(don't ask me why my previous post is in italics...I couldn't get it to turn off italics...)

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