Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Benefits of Visual Schedules for Kids with Autism &/or Hyperlexia

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How does using a visual schedule benefit kids with autism and/or hyperlexia? Let's take a closer look at 12 benefits of visual schedules. Then be sure to grab the free printable cheat sheet too!

Back when my kids were about three and one, I made this printable visual schedule as a way to build routine and structure into our day. I was hoping it would also help us deal with transitions because back then, our day-to-day life was tough, filled with meltdowns and tears. Little did I know that that visual schedule would have such a tremendous impact on our daily life!

Since then I have been a big fan of using visual schedules and routines for kids, especially those with special needs like autism or hyperlexia, like my oldest.

Here are 12 benefits of using a visual schedule with kids who have with autism and/or hyperlexia and why you should be using one, if you aren't already.


Reasons Why Using a Visual Schedule is Important for Kids with Autism

I remember when we first started implementing and using a visual schedule in our house. It was simply life changing for us! Here are some of the reasons why using a visual schedule is important for kids with autism and/or hyperlexia.

1. Provides organization, structure, and predictability to the day

Visual schedules are a great way to build routine and inform kids about the expectations for the day.

2. Supports literacy development

Since visual schedules often incorporate words with pictures (at least my free printable visual schedule does!), it aids in comprehension, recognition of words, and the relationship between words and pictures.

3. Reinforces & supplements verbal instructions

Many kids with autism and/or hyperlexia struggle with expressive and receptive speech so verbal instructions can literally go in one ear and out the other. Using a visual schedule with these kids reinforces those verbal instructions.

4. Teaches time concepts & sequencing

Even if you don't use specific times alongside your visual schedule (we never did because that would have been a disaster with J when he was younger!), the format of a visual schedule clearly illustrates the sequence of events for the day. These kids can literally see what comes next. Visual schedules can be used to teach abstract concepts such as first, next, last or before and after.

5. Teaches responsibility & planning

Kids can take part in planning out their day by helping their parents or teachers build the visual schedule or routine for the day. Doing so allows them to think about and plan out tasks in an appropriate sequence, helping to build strong executive functioning skills. Kids also learn to move onto the next task or activity on the schedule on their own after completing the previous one. Visual schedules can also be used to break down tasks into smaller steps, allowing these kids a better way to master basic life skills.

6. Eases transitions

Switching tasks can be extremely tough for kids with autism or hyperlexia, especially if they are unexpected changes. A visual schedule, however, reduces meltdowns and struggles about moving to the next task because the schedule visually depicts what comes next. As a result, the schedule helps kids anticipate any changes.

7. Reduces anxiety

The reason why changing tasks can be difficult is because kids don't always know what comes next, causing anxiety. However, as pointed out above, visual schedules ease transitions. As a result, anxiety can be reduced too.

8. Provides independence

Kids can check the visual schedule when they want and move onto the next task by themselves by referencing the schedule to see what comes next. Also, visual schedules reduce the need for students to ask teachers or parents what they can do next or what time a particular activity is happening at. They can simple check the schedule independently.

9. Builds self-esteem

Since visual schedules allow children to develop responsibility and independence, kids' self-esteem can also be strengthened. Kids can see the progress they make by checking off things on the visual schedule and feeling a sense of accomplishment.

10. Plays to the strengths of kids with autism

Kids with autism and/or hyperlexia are strong visual learners. Using a visual schedule plays to this strength.

11. Allows change to be introduced easily

A new task or activity can easily be introduced into a visual schedule by placing it between two items already on the schedule. Since kids can see the new change visually and where that change takes place, they can adapt better to those changes. See benefit #6 for more information about this benefit.

12. Available for referencing throughout the day

Many kids with autism and/or hyperlexia struggle retaining and/or comprehending verbal information. Using a visual schedule at home or in the classroom allows for these kids to check the schedule whenever they want, without having to rely on memory of what was spoken to them earlier. Visual schedules are not fleeting like language is.
Free printable cheat sheet about the benefits of visual schedules for kids from And Next Comes L

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