Let’s Get Organised!!!

Imagine you are without your calendar, smart phone or diary for a month. Would you know when you are expected to be different places, when your different appointments are or what is happening each day? I imagine you might feel a bit anxious or unsure, not knowing what or when different events were happening. Similarly, many children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or sensory difficulties have trouble making sense of time and knowing when different things are happening. Visual schedules can be a helpful tool for children with ASD or sensory difficulties to help increase their understanding of situations and to know what is expected of them. While many of the ideas in this post are specific to children with ASD, every child can benefit from structured routine, and visual schedules can be a helpful way to support this.

What are visual schedules?
Visual schedules are any type of visual tool used to help someone learn to understand when and what is going to happen. They provide sequential information about steps within an activity, a day, week, month or year in a clear and simple form with the use of images. They are a helpful way to tell a child what is going to happen, and the order in which things will occur (Hayes et al. 2010).

What are the benefits of using visual schedules?
Many children with ASD or sensory difficulties struggle when they are unsure about what is happening, or what will happen next. It is common for these children to find coping with unstructured time challenging and they often benefit from increased structure in their lives (Van Bourgondien et al. 2003). Visual schedules can provide children with a clear way of understanding processes, anticipating events and putting their world into order, which can reduce anxiety they may experience when faced with the unknown (Hayes et al. 2010).
While visual schedules are often used with children with ASD, all children can benefit from using them too. Some of the benefits of using visual schedules include:
• They provide predictability and structure
• They can help a child move between activities with more ease, as they can see the sequence of events
• They can help a child to remain calm when they may have otherwise been anxious without knowing is next
• A child can move between activities with the guidance of the schedule, instead of relying on someone else to lead them or prompt them to the next activity
• Learning time concepts such as after, before, first, next and last
• Helps the child develop more independence and the habit of seeking information for themselves
• They can be used in a variety of settings (in the classroom, at home etc.)

Visual schedules and technology
Visual schedules can take on a variety of different forms. They can be wall mounted boards, fridge magnets, pictures placed near the area of a specific activity (e.g. near the basin for how to wash hands) and in our world of technology, they can also take the form of digital schedules on a smart phone or tablet.
Below we have listed some of the available smart phone apps for creating visual schedules. If you are interested in downloading an app for visual schedules, this list may be a helpful starting point for you. This is not an extensive list of the apps available, and there may be others on the market with similar features and functions. The information below has come from the App Store or Google Play Store, and as we have not trialled these apps, they may have additional features to those listed here.
An app which is helpful for one child may not be helpful for another, so it may take time to find an app which is the most helpful for your child. We encourage you, when considering downloading an app, look at the information and images they provide, to try and determine what you think could be the most helpful for your child.

Apps for iOS
Name Cost Other Information
This for That: Visual Schedules Free ·      Can use own pictures

·      Checklist feature

Visual Schedule $2.99 ·      Can use own pictures

·      Only compatible on iPad

·      Checklist feature

·      Option to include a reward section

Visual Routine $5.99 ·      Can use own pictures

·      Can have text only, picture only or audio only schedules, or any combination

·      Allows up to 4 choices in each step, creating the opportunity for options/choices to be provided  (e.g. which shoes to wear that day)

Choiceworks Calendar $7.99 ·      Can use own pictures

·      Only compatible on iPad

·      Calendar view

·      Timer feature

Choiceworks $10.99 ·      Can use own pictures

·      Can have different profiles to manage different users

·      Also includes a ‘Waiting Section’ (learning about waiting, taking turns and not interrupting) and a ‘Feelings Section’ (Tool to help children understand and express emotions)

First Then Visual Schedule $14.99 ·      Can use own pictures

·      Checklist feature

Visual Schedule Planner $22.99 ·      Can use own pictures

·      Checklist feature

·      Timer feature

Apps for Android
Name Cost Other Information
Pictogram Agenda Free ·      Can use own pictures

·      Allows to cross pictograms out to emphasize NOT to do them

What’s Next (Visual Prompts) $2 ·      Can use own pictures

·      Checklist feature

·      Offers a refund if you decide the app is not suitable for you

·      No Advertisements or other on-screen distractions

First Then Visual Schedule $5.95 ·      Can use own pictures

·      Checklist feature

·      Timer feature

·      Internet search feature

AutiPlan – Visual Scheduling Free for 30 days, $7.99 a month after ·      Checklist feature

·      Timer feature

Hayes, GR, Hirano, S, Marcu, G, Monibi, M, Nguyen, DH & Yeganyan, M 2010, Interactive visual supports for children with autism, Personal and Umbiquitous Computing, vol. 4, no. 7, pp. 663 – 680.
Van Bourgondien, M, Reichle, N & Schopler, E 2003, Effects of a model treatment approach on adults with autism, Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, vol. 33, pp. 131-140.


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