Tips for setting up Visual Schedules in Special ED

Having a selection of Communication Strategies ready to use is always a good idea in Special Ed! Having a visual schedule is one strategy I find very effective in class. Below I’ve listed my schedule tips and other strategies that have really helped my young leaners settle into a structured learning environment.

Visual Schedules – Set out visuals to reflect the order of the class day. They should be designed to support your student through a smooth transition eg. from activity to activity, room to room or within tasks.  

Here are some quick tips for setting up and getting started!

1. START SIMPLE – Make visuals for just the key times of the day eg, morning work, break, lunch etc,  for your young learners to learn to recognise and correspond with the days activities.

2. BUY A LAMINATOR – Make the laminator your best friend! If you want all your hard work to last, laminate all mounts and visuals because they are going to go through a tough time!

3. WALL MOUNT  – A wall mounted schedule that is low enough for your student to access and add detachable symbols of the daily routine. 

4. USE A FINISHED BOX – Attach a finished box at the end or side of the schedule to drop the finished visuals in before starting a new activity. 

5. TRY A FILE FOLDER – A portable schedule can be used in a file folder in the same way as a wall mounted one. I find these easier with older children to check into the activities and more efficient in busy classrooms. Pop their name on it and keep all their individual support visuals in one place. 

6. MODLE AND PRACTICE – Always model, practice and remind your busy student at the beginning of each activity to, “check in”.  Make a plan to pull back on all prompting until they begin to use this system independently!

Timers – For giving a break and reminding students how long they need to work and how long left on free time!

Routines – Keep Break, Lunch and free choice the same time each day!

Consistency – Ensure all staff are using the same strategies and are following behaviour plans!

Positive Reinforcers – Use Token Economy Systems, First and Then, Behavior Regulation tools and Reward systems tailored to individual interests and likes!

Communication – Critical skills for Functional Communication, a means in which your non verbal student is able to request a “break” “help”  or asked to “wait”

For some of my young learners I’ve introduced a portable schedule! 
I’m pleased it offers all the strategies I wanted to incorporated throughout the day.
I keep them in a handy place for my students to access first thing in the morning and follow the schedule by checking into the work areas they need to complete.
There’s a set place in the booklet for the schedule symbols, a token reward system, plus a place for reinforcer visuals and Critical Communication cards so students can ask for a Break or Help, all while reminding and keeping a consistent approach that staff can help students to follow!

Social Skills-Being Kind to Friends

Download a FREE sorting activity

We often spend time teaching our children about friendships in school, often saying, share with your friends, kind hands, play nice. But some children lack the social skills, for what ever reason, to maintain healthy interactions with other kids and need regular reminding.

Its sometimes important to teach basic social skills to young learners on how to be a good friend. They might need us to help them understand some of the more complex parts of what being a good friend is and what that looks like.

Learning about how their own behaviours will affect others, about recognising other people’s feelings and how to respond in an understanding and caring way in order to maintain friendships is important to.

When difficulties arise some children can use visual guides or social narratives to guide them through the what’s and what-nots to do in friendship groups.

TIP – Use Social supports to reinforce positive behavior regularly either in a one to one situations or as part of a group. Using simple visuals with easy instructions during social skill sorting games and activities can help young learners stay on track.

Being kind Social Story –

Social Stories on TPT

Download free activity here

How to use First and Then Visuals

Children with SPED can sometimes find a classroom a bit confusing and can quickly become distressed with all the changes that are taking place around the room. My job is to help keep them calm and cope with what is happening. Sometimes I use visual supports to prepare and explain what is happening next.

I have found the “First and Then” Strategy a visual way of understanding what is expected throughout the day and a simple start to scheduling. As part of my structured teaching environment I use this simple timetable with individual work and in class activities.

Before starting a task and after a motivator assessment my young learners are offered a selection of visual reinforcers to choose from, this icon is placed in the “Then” side of the board.

And I place the icon of the task to be completed on the “First” side of the board. While teaching this strategy for the first few times I use quick errorless tasks and partially prompt my student if they become distressed.

Once established, my student will learn to follow the first activity independently and transfer to the next activity shown.

For More information click here

My Calm Down Corner

I’ve been creating behavior supports for my classroom and I particularly love the calm down resources that iv finally put together. The system works great especially for children that needs to calm themselves and rely on clear visual instruction to help process what they need to do.

So I started with a sign, a “Calm down” sign … before I even put together a selection of fidgets! A couple of cheap fidget toys that I knew my kids would love and the first part of my kit was done. Then I sorted out a corner of my room with a beanbag on the floor and a little book shelf for privacy, I kept it very plain and simple with just the calm down tools on hand… WOW it looks great, and my kids love it!

Next I wanted to gave my kids a chance to take a break before things got to tricky, so I made these colourful break cards and purchased a sand timer. I added Velcro to the break board and attached it to the side of the bookcase, a good place to put the break card, I thought, before they grab a timer and sitting down. I knew this skill would take a bit of practice but was surprised at how quickly I saw results… its well worth the effort.

In a crises a visual choice of nice, peaceful activities would help to distract for a moment until we could sort out what was wanted.

And my all time favourite support! (already established) that always seems to work and get the little learner back on track is the REWARD BOARD and MENU CARD!


Tips For Special Ed Teachers

The four functions of behavior are, Sensory, Escape, Attention and Tangible. Effective intervention involves identifying the function of a behavior and incorporating strategies to replace it.

Attention – if the student is pinching you to gain attention, then teach her to request attention appropriately with e.g. visuals such as “will you play with me” icon.

ESCAPE – if she’s hitting her head to avoid a task, teach her to request “help” or a “break” with a timer.

Tangible – crying while in a cue to get lunch, teach her to “wait”

Sensory – biting her hand, then teach her to request a “chewy toy”.

When planning these new skills always remember that the replacement behavior must serve the same function as the one displayed.

More Ideas

SENSORY SIMULATION – Offer opportunities for bouncing on a large ball or trampoline, spinning, squeezing sensory balls, chewy toys, sand play, water play, banging a drum.

ATTENTION SEEKING – Give non verbal students a voice with visuals to request time with a favourite person, play games or work together. Model with hand over hand instructions to tap your arm and get your attention in structured sessions.

AVOIDANCE – Teach students to request a “break”, “help”, Give a choice of what to work for with a Token Reward system. Motivate with a choice of reinforcers and keep them fresh and handy.

Plan fun activities, maybe short to start with. Tailor learning with individual interest in mind.

TANGIBLE – Redirect to requesting items using visuals or voice, Use “First and Then” strategy and schedules. Token Economy with a reinforcer of their choice should incorporate their favourite items and snacks.

For more tips and ideas follow me on my TPT Store