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!