Visual Schedules for Students with Disabilities

Visual schedules are effective tools for managing student workflow, motivating independent work and helping students with disabilities understand that they are reinforced for a certain number of completed academic tasks. 

Visual schedules can range from the very simple, like the sticker work chart, to visual schedules made with PECs or pictures. The kind of schedule is less important than the fact that it:

  1. creates a visual framework to record completed assignments and work
  2. gives the student a sense of power over their schedule
  3. eliminates a lot of behavioral challenges
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Visual Sticker Work Chart

A Sticker Work Chart. Websterlearning

The easiest visual chart, this work chart can quickly be made in Microsoft Word, placing the child's name at the top, a space for a date and a chart with squares at the bottom. I have a good sense of how many activities a student can complete before he or she needs to make a reinforcer choice.  This can be supported by a "choice list." I have made them using Google Images and created them a little like the "house for sale" postings at the grocery store, where you cut between each phone number to create tear off tabs.

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Visual Picture Pogoboard Chart

Pogoboard Pictures for Visual Schedules. Websterlearning

Pogoboards, a visual word chart picture system, is a product of Ablenet and requires a subscription. Clark County School District, my employer, now uses this rather than maintaining our relationship with the publishers of Boardmaker, Mayer-Johnson.

Pogoboards offers templates that match different communication devices, like the dynovox, but still make bright pictures that can be used as part of a picture exchange system.

If your students are using a picture exchange system, using it for their schedule will help support language development with the picture exchange. If they are not having difficulty with speech, the images are still very clear and great for non-readers. I'm using them with readers for my student's "choice" charts.

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A Choice Chart to Support a Visual Schedule

Picture Symbols to Create a Choice Chart.

A choice chart combines the strengths of a visual schedule with a reinforcement schedule. It gives students with language challenges the opportunity to choose what they will do when they have completed academic tasks.

This chart uses Pogoboards, though Boardmaker can also provide excellent pictures to use as part of your exchange system. Students have a visual representation of the choices that they can make when they have completed a certain number of tasks.

It's not a bad idea to have plenty of extra choice activities, objects or rewards available for your students. One of the first tasks of a special educator is to find out what activities, objects or rewards a student responds to. Once that is established, you can add activities.

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Picture Exchange Schedules

Pogo pictures can be used for picture exchange communication. Ablenet

Many speech pathologists, as well as teachers of students with communication challenges, use Boardmaker to create pictures for schedules. Often a classroom for students on the autism spectrum will use a picture exchange schedule made with Boardmaker. Available from Mayer-Johnson, it has a large range of images that you can add your own titles to, in order to make schedules. 

In a classroom setting, Velcro is stuck on the back of the picture cards, and the cards on a strip on the board. Often, to help students with transitioning, send a student to the board at transition time and remove the activity just finished. It gives these students a sense that they have some control over the classroom schedule, as well as supporting daily routines.

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Your Citation
Webster, Jerry. "Visual Schedules for Students with Disabilities." ThoughtCo, Sep. 16, 2020, Webster, Jerry. (2020, September 16). Visual Schedules for Students with Disabilities. Retrieved from Webster, Jerry. "Visual Schedules for Students with Disabilities." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 3, 2023).