Posted in Autism, Down syndrome, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, Education and Special Needs, Feeding, Personal Hygiene, Toileting, Parenting Special Needs, Resources for Special Needs

Blog #164~Why Use a Visual Schedule?


Blog #164~Why Use a Visual Schedule?

We all hate getting lost, it can be aggravating  and nervewracking. That’s why we use maps to help navigate our way.


The same is true for a child with special needs who lacks verbal and cognitive skills.  Providing a visual schedule allows your child to see what is going to happen in their day. My son, Nick is 22 years old and has Down syndrome and autism. Visual schedules provide many benefits for him to travel smoothly, through his daily routine.

Nick fist bump AID

Benefits of Using a Visual Schedule:

*Provides structure and predictability by showing a child what is coming up next.  This greatly reduces anxiety and builds confidence.

*Helps with transitions from one activity to the next.

*Picture form is easier to understand than verbal instructions.  Children with autism often comprehend pictures and/or written directions easier than verbal cues alone.

*Helps to teach sequence of events especially when using words, “first”, “next”, and “last”.

*Expedites learning routines and fosters independence in self-help/hygiene skills and household/school jobs.


*Helps with time management and literacy development by reading through pictures and words associated with them.

*Improves conversation skills by giving a visual framework of what they did and what was their favorite part of the end of the day.

*Assists teachers and caregivers with routine changes, when things get out of sync.  It also helps to introduce a new and/or different activity.


Visual schedules come in all shapes and forms and many are available in Google images.  You can adjust the length and type of images, (PECS-Picture Exchange System, photos, written words,  iPad/ smart phone apps) to what your child will most easily understand.


It’s best to start with a small routine and adapt the schedules based on your child’s needs and abilities. Try pairing a non-preferred activity (first) followed by a preferred choice (next).  Your child’s speech therapist can be of great help in creating picture sequences that would fit their needs.

Going through a visual schedule with your child, helps them understand what is going to happen, and what behavior you expect.

Here is one we use when going to the mall.  Note the visual below has going to the stores (first)  and Taco Bell (next) as the preferred activity.


Sequence for going to church:

photo (106)

Full Day Schedule: ( Note, this could be broken up in separate pieces if this would be to overwhelming).


Using visual schedules have been shown to be helpful for children and adults with special needs by giving them more control on what goes on in their daily lives.  It provides the road map to navigate for a smooth ride through their daily routines.  That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 🙂

Follow Nick:

@Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism on Facebook and Pinterest

#nickdsautism on Instagram

@tjunnerstall on Twitter





Teresa is the Author of "A New Course: A Mother's Journey Navigating Down Syndrome and Autism" and the mother of two boys. Her youngest son, Nick is 29 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). Teresa's passion is helping others understand and navigate co-occurring Down syndrome and autism. She is a DS-ASD consultant, advocate, speaker, and author. Follow Nick's world on Facebook, Instagram & Pinterest @Down Syndrome With A Slice of Autism and on Twitter @tjunnerstall. For more information and media links, visit

3 thoughts on “Blog #164~Why Use a Visual Schedule?

  1. Thank you for this post. This is just what I needed, after having what I felt like a set back year with Noah. Still non verbal and refuses to use an Augmentative Communication Device at home, but used one when he went to school, and the frustrations are beginning to show for him and the rest of us. Noah’s ABA therapist suggested bringing back pictures for his schedule and we have begun to implement this into his daily routine schedule. At times, it seems he needs the real item, like showing his game controller, to get him motivate. I pray 2017 brings a new year for communicating as we are awaiting approval for a NOVA Chat 8, since Noah will not use the Proloquo2go program we purchased for him on his iPad.

    1. What has worked for Nick is to keep both the AAC Device (Touch Chat) and the PECS book near each other. I would suggest using the AAC device especially for food choices (highly motivating for my son), and highly praise. It takes a real commitment to use the AAC devices from both the school, private speech therapy, respite workers and family to make it meaningful. I can’t say we are there yet on the AAC device. But in my mind, using any mode of communication (AAC, PECS, sign language and actual items), all help to communicate for our kids. Thank you for your comments, and please keep me updated and know I am always here to help and answer any questions you have. Best, T 🙂

    2. Good luck as you move forward with Noah. I pray that 2017 brings more communication whether it is picture form or with the Nova Chat. Did you check the archive categories under AAC devices? I’ve written more there on what Nick uses and how we got him motivated to do more with it. Best, to you 🙂

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