How to make a visual timetable

12 August 2015

Dear Friend,

Why do autistic children need visuals? Many autistic people have communication difficulties so using visuals to see can give them a better understanding of the world. A picture remains constant whereas words/instructions disappear. Having visuals gives the big lad a sense of structure and teaches him routine. Visuals also help to establish his attention and manage his time, they can speed up slow thinking e.g. visuals for tasks like cleaning teeth and showering. They also help with him handling change and following rules as without the timetable he would simply spend all day on his computer.

We have been using visuals with the big lad  for a long time, since pre 'official' diagnosis. The first one I made was a washing line with clothes pegged on. We used this to show him the order of dressing/undressing so he could learn to do this independently. We use/d visuals for teeth cleaning, showering, remembering to flush the toilet, shut the door and put out the light. Morning and evening routines were made visual when he was younger too but now we rely on a holiday calendar with special events marked on and a daily timetable. Today I am going to share how to make a daily timetable.

Using visuals:

  1. The type of visual you use e.g. photo or image will depend upon the age and needs of your child. Very young children may need images that closely resemble the object.
  2. They must have meaning for your child; I have used Mario bros characters and minions in the past to grab his attention.
  3. Always use visuals with speech. They are an aid to teaching language.
  4. Print the name of the visual in the bottom corner so that everyone uses the same name.
  5. Visuals need to be accessible; We keep ours on the fridge (not too high) where the boys can move them around and make choices.
  6. Be patient! Wait for your child to point to the cards and process the information.

We keep our visuals on the fridge

  • How to make a Visual Timetable:
Lots of websites offer free pictograms and you can find these easily by searching. I have used the sparklebox Visual resources professionally and personally they are clear and easy. I also came across Autism Buddy, this sight looks great and I can't wait to explore it further. 

As I wanted to make my cards specific to my kids I searched for images I thought they'd like and then made them using Pic MonkeyI made the images 300x300 pixels. I choose a clear, simple font that would be easy to read. 

Some of my visuals:


Next I made a daily timetable to place the cards on. 

Timetable 1 for normal school days

Timetable 2 for Wednesdays

Timetable 3 for Weekends & Holidays

I had to make 3 different daily versions as the big lad does not attend school on Wednesday afternoons and I made a separate timetable for weekends/holidays.

The timetables and cards are printed on high quality paper and then laminated to make them more durable.

You can place cards on the timetable e.g. doctors appointments, physio therapy, shopping, a visit to the beach or a party. Your child then completes the empty squares.(They may not use all squares every time, especially if you are spending a morning out somewhere.)

It is important that you talk through your child's choices with them. I usually give the big lad 2 or 3 choices per square. We have some rules e.g. only 1 computer choice per morning/afternoon but you can set your own rules. Obviously some activities take longer than others. 

Be patient. At the beginning the big lad would rush through some tasks to get to the computer activity that he really wanted. I then set at least a 30 minute time frame for each one. Using the visual timetables has helped to add more variety to his play.

My big lad relies on the visuals less now and some days doesn't use them at all, especially if we are busy out and about. But we made the mistake of removing the timetable from our fridge and he really struggled so it is back to stay. He needs the structure more on weekends and holidays when there is no school.

Perhaps you know someone who would benefit from these cards? Please feel free to share this post or e-mail me if you would like a copy of the timetables and cards.

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Photography @My_Dutch_Angle

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