Using Picture Schedules: WHY and HOW

February 7, 2017

56% Visual (gestures, body language, pictures)
37% Vocal (tone, rate, intensity)
7%  Verbal (the actual words in the message)
100% Communication

Linda Hogdgon, CCC-SLP,From Visual Tool For Communication

Why Do We Need Picture Schedules?

  • People with autism frequently respond better to visual information rather than to auditory information. They understand what they see better than what they   Thus, capitalizing on visuals helps to reduce communication breakdowns, which in turn helps to reduce behavior problems.
  • A visual schedule is a type of to-do list. Most of us use to-do lists and calendars to help us navigate our day.  We all like to know what is coming, so we can anticipate the high points and prepare for the low ones.  For this reason, picture schedules can help reduce anxiety, perseveration, and issues with transitioning.
  • Visual schedules can increase independence, because the person can refer to his/her schedule to determine what to do next, rather than relying on an adult to prompt him/her.
  • Picture schedules improve receptive communication by providing visual information to accompany verbal or written language. Every time someone reviews a visual schedule with a client, the connection between the image and the language is reinforced.

visual schedule

How Do We Use Picture Schedules?

  • With enthusiasm– “Hey, let’s take a look at your schedule and see what fun things we have in store for today!”
  • With visual attention from the clientHave the client either point to each item or repeat each item as you review it.
  • Accompanied by simple words– “First gym, then lunch!”
  • Throughout the day, every day– After completing the first item on the list, refer back to it and say, for example, “We are finished with breakfast, so now it’s time to brush our teeth. Then we will be ready to take a van ride.”

Common Mistakes with Picture Schedules

  • Allowing the schedule to become wall art– if you don’t teach the meaning of the schedule and reinforce its function, the client will likely pay little attention to it.
  • Threatening removal of good things– a visual schedule is not a token economy. It is a reminder and a contract about what is coming up in the person’s day.
  • Never changing the schedule– be sure to include special outings and events on the schedule so the client engages with it and uses it in a meaningful way.