Once used exclusively for children with special needs, it has become widely accepted that visual schedules benefit ALL children. Many techniques work for some children some of the time, but visual schedules can help EVERY child you know. Why is that? Visual schedules:
- communicate to all learning styles
- use pictures so all children understand
- encourage participation and empower children
- show children they are making progress
- create opportunities for praise
- offer immediate results
Whether you create your own or purchase a premade kit like this one from Schedule Power (link, photo), classrooms run smoother when you teach routines to an entire class using a visual schedule.
If you aren’t already using a schedule, consider this: All children need support at different moments for different reasons. A visual schedule gives each child the information they need when they need it without singling anyone out. Now that’s true inclusion!
Here are 10 types of children with everyday preschool challenges who immediately benefit from a visual schedule.
1. UNSURE OF WHAT TO DO
Everyone likes to know the plan, be in control and check things off their list. Children are no different. Visual schedules are like calendars and to-do lists for adults, but with pictures. Visual schedules support children at every moment of the day so they can immediately understand what they should be doing and what activities are next. Children are more likely to cooperate and less likely to choose challenging behavior.
2. STRUGGLING WITH TRANSITIONS
No one likes a transition when they aren’t expecting it. Think about how you feel when your boss has you stop what you are doing to attend a meeting that wasn’t on your calendar. Kids feel the same and the result is often challenging behavior. When kids know what to expect before it happens, they have time to process and plan for the upcoming transition. When it’s time for a new activity, they are ready… even if it’s an activity they’d rather not do. That means adults spend less time repeating directions and children increase their feeling of independence.
3. EASILY DISTRACTED OR OFF-TASK
Verbal instructions are gone in a moment. If a child did not hear or understand the verbal instructions, they will likely continue what they were doing. Picture schedules give a static reminder of the current task and plan. Children have more time to process the information when looking at a picture and if they forget what they should be doing, they can independently refer to the schedule and get back on track.
4. REFUSING TO STOP AN ACTIVITY
Moving to a new activity can be difficult for young children. Schedules show children which activity they are working on and what activities are next. When children understand their routine, they are more likely to begin the next activity without adult reminders or challenging behavior. Tantrums can instantly be replaced with excitement and motivation.
5. ANXIOUS ABOUT AN UPCOMING ACTIVITY
For some children, the worry associated with an upcoming activity can paralyze their participation in the current task. Often children experience anxiety when they don’t understand the plan and feel like they don’t have control over the situation. Visual schedules provide a constant reminder of the plan so that the child understands exactly what to expect and in what order.
6. REFUSING TO PARTICIPATE IN AN ACTIVITY
When children see all the steps in a routine, they see a clear beginning, middle and end. Children can see that non-preferred activities are followed by preferred activities. As activities are completed and removed, children see that they are making progress toward an end goal and become eager participants.
When kids feel hungry, daily routines can quickly fall apart. Visual schedules show kids when they are going to have their next meal or snack. They can see how many activities need to be completed before the meal and are encouraged to complete them in order to get to the preferred activity.
8. MISSING A PARENT OR CAREGIVER
When children don’t know the plan, it can cause them to feel scared or stressed, resulting in tears, tantrums or other challenging behavior. Schedules show children their daily routine so that they can understand the steps and see how long it will take until a parent or caregiver returns. As activities are completed, children can see progress being made toward the end of the school day.
9. STUGGLING TO WAIT
Waiting is a really hard skill for young people to learn. Yet schedules help children practice and ultimately become successful by giving them information in a way they can understand. “First we are going to do this, and then we will do that.” Children can understand the order, focus on the current task and manage their emotions and behaviors in the process.
10. WANT TO BE IN CONTROL
Let’s face it, we all want to have a little control over our day. Children are no different. Visual schedules allow kids to manage their day without adult reminders by completing tasks along an easy to follow checklist. They feel proud and empowered to continue their work and adults have endless opportunities to compliment the child on his progress.