While most of us don’t follow visual schedules, children with autism have a tougher time dealing with unstructured time. Transitions and changes are often stressful for kids with autism as well, leading to stress for both the child and the caregiver throughout the day. Research shows many benefits to using visual schedules with individuals with ASD, and many parents have noted that the addition of a visual schedule has made such a big difference in their lives and the life of their child.
What are Visual Schedules?
What is a visual schedule? Think of it as a picture-based organizer. Maybe you have a tough time getting through the day without your phone calendar helping you remember all your appointments.
Kids with autism similarly benefit from having a schedule they can rely on. Visual schedules can use drawings, photos, numbers, and words to help kids understand when and what activities should be taking place. They’re a powerful tool that can help kids perform complex tasks, organize their day, or follow a routine.
Big Benefits of Using Visual Schedules
Why are visual schedules so important for children with autism? Here are a few of the significant benefits they can offer kids with ASD and their caregivers.
Benefit #1 – They Work to Your Child’s Visual Strengths – Although kids with autism may be able to understand shorter verbal instructions, sometimes they have a tougher time following longer ones. Individuals with autism often have excellent visual skills and going with a visual schedule helps you take advantages of their strengths.
Benefit #2 – Encourages Independence – Helping a child with ASD become more independent is crucial for their wellbeing and that of their caregiver. Visual schedules can help kids navigate and transition through a day without needing someone else to tell them what to do.
Benefit #3 – They Reduce Meltdowns – Kids with autism prefer predictability and structure. When they know in advance what’s happening, it can feel them feel more in control and at ease. It often helps kids deal with changes that could otherwise result in meltdowns, and it can reduce other inappropriate behaviors as well.
Benefit #4 – Teaching New Skills – Visual schedules can be used to break down new activities into smaller steps so they can learn new skills. For example, they could break down the steps of going to the bathroom so the child can follow these steps on their own and master new skills, taking some of the weight off the caregiver.
Benefit #5 – Reduces Caregiver Frustration – As a caregiver for a child with autism, you already have so many things to handle – doctor’s appointments, therapy, a child’s personal care, and more. Dealing with a meltdown or noncompliance to activities can be extremely frustrating in the middle of your day. A visual schedule reduces conflict, gives your child more independence, and means you won’t have to supervise as much, reducing stress and frustration.
There’s a lot of evidence to back up the use of visual schedules and other visual supports for children with autism. Visual supports open the doors of communication, increasing your child’s ability to interact with his or her surroundings. Learn more about how Speakprose can be used to open the lines of communication for your child.