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Visual Schedules for Autistic Individuals

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Visual schedules are lists of activities in sequence. Schedules can be printed, consist of pictorial representations of activities, or even make use of objects (Quill, 2002). Schedules can help a child know what to expect within a specific time period. Children with autism, seem to greatly benefit from a visual representation of what is going to happen. Daily schedules and activity schedules are two main types of schedules that can be used to help children understand what is going to happen and what to expect.

Daily Visual Schedules

A daily schedule will list out the activities that will be completed in one day or part of the day. For example, a school schedule may list out reading, writing, lunch, recess, math, science, P.E. At home, a morning schedule may consist of eating breakfast, brushing teeth, brushing hair, reading a story, getting the backpack, putting shoes on, and then ga schedule written on notebook paper placed in a plastic sleeveoing to the bus.

A daily visual schedule may be created using Boardmaker pictures, photographs, objects, or written out using words. A written schedule can be reused if kept in a plastic sleeve. Rather than writing or printing out a new schedule each day, the schedule can be marked off with a washable dry erase marker and used again the next day.


Activity Schedules

An activity schedule sequences the steps for a particular activity. I have used activity schedules for:

  • How to wash hands
  • The steps in a grooming routine (e.g., for brushing teeth)
  • What to do in a fire drill
  • The steps for using the bathroom

wash hands, turn on water, get soap, wash hands, count, rinse hands, turn off water, dry hands, throw paper towel away, all done

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Activity schedules can also be used for:

  • A sequenced play activity (e.g., feed the baby, change the baby’s diaper, rock the baby)
  • The steps in completing an art activity
  • The steps in taking a bath

I also created an activity schedule to help prepare one of my children for getting blood work. CLICK HERE to read the post and see the  activity schedule for getting a blood draw.

Research has demonstrated that activity schedules can promote independent functioning (Bryan & Gast, 2000; MacDuff, Krantz, & McClannahan, 1993). If a child has difficulty understanding what to do in an activity, sequencing out the steps may be beneficial. Video models demonstrating each step in the activity schedule may help maximize the benefit of using an activity schedule.

For more information on activity schedules, consider reading this book:



Bryan, L. C., & Gast, D. L. (2000). Teaching on-task and on-schedule behaviors to high-functioning children with autism via picture activity schedules. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 30(6), 553-567.

MacDuff, G. S., Krantz, P. J., & McClannahan, L. E. (1993). Teaching Children with autism to use photographic activity schedules: Maintenance and generalization of complex response chains. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 26(1), 89-97.

Quill, K. (2002). Do-Watch-Listen-Say:  Social and Communication Intervention for Children with Autism.  Paul H. Brookes Publishing.


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