Learning strategies

In writing this, I hope to share some of the learning strategies that I have used both in the classroom as a teacher, and as a mum with my own kids…


Visual activity schedules

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Think about the visual reminders that you use every day to help you remember what you need to do. I know that I use several different types of visual reminders including a,

  • calendar or diary
  • reminders app on a phone
  • sticky notes
  • to do lists

Just like us, kids need schedules and reminders to help them know what to do and when to do it.

Using a visual activity schedule (sometimes called a picture schedule or visual timetable) is one way of helping your child to understand (or remember) what they should be doing now and what they need to do next.

What is a visual activity schedule?

A visual activity schedule is a series of images (photographs, drawings, symbols or words), sequenced from left to right or top to bottom, representing a sequence of activities.

It can represent:

  • a sequence of activities that need completing, e.g. in a morning. (A different picture/symbol is used to represent each activity on the schedule.)

or,

  • a single activity, e.g. getting dressed. (The activity is broken down into a series of smaller steps and one picture/symbol is used to represent each step in the activity).

Why use a visual activity schedule?

A visual activity schedule;

  • is a visual reminder of a structure or routine. Some children find it challenging to understand, process and/or remember spoken information. A visual activity schedule represents the same information visually.

  • encourages the development of independence as children move from one activity to the next.

  • helps children prepare for and accept changes to usual routines. Some children experience increased levels of anxiety when routines are changed. Using visual activity schedules can help them to accept changes and reduce anxiety. e.g. pictures of leaving the house, grandma and returning home can be inserted into a schedule to accommodate an unplanned visit to grandma's house.

  • helps children learn new skills e.g. brushing teeth.

  • helps children to develop an understanding of what they have already done, the past, what they are doing now, the present, and what is happening next, the future.

How to make a visual activity schedule:

  1. Decide what activities/activity to include in the schedule and the sequence that they should be attempted in.

Top tips:

When beginning to teach your child how to use a visual activity schedule:

  • Start it with an activity your child enjoys, is familiar with, or can already do.

  • Include a variety of different activities in the schedule to help keep your child engaged.

  • End it with an activity that your child enjoys e.g. free play.

  1. Decide on the type of images that will represent the activities/activity steps. e.g. photographs, drawings.

Top tips:

  • Choose image types matched to your child's developmental stage. Photographs of objects or activities are often easier to understand than symbols and/or words.

  • When choosing images, think about the needs of the child who will be using the schedule. e.g. An activity schedule for getting dressed has a photograph of a blue t-shirt on it. A red t-shirt has been laid out for the child to put on. A child with autistic tendencies following this activity schedule may become anxious because the t-shirt colours do not match.

  1. Think about how the schedule will show your child which activity/activity step they are on.
  • Mounting pictures on card with Velcro, Blu tack or paperclips. As an activity or step is completed, the picture can be removed and placed in an envelope on the back of, or under, the schedule. Attaching pictures to a schedule with Velcro etc. makes it easy to change the order of, or use different, pictures.

    • Moving an arrow along the schedule. An arrow can be moved along to the next activity/step on the schedule when an activity/step has been completed.
  1. Make the visual activity schedule.

  2. Teach your child how to use the visual activity schedule:

  • Introduce your child to the visual activity schedule at the start of the activity, or time period, e.g. morning, that it relates to.

  • Point to the first picture/symbol and encourage your child to complete the first activity/activity step.

  • When the first activity/activity step has been completed, refer your child back to the visual activity schedule.

  • Remove the picture/symbol of the completed activity, or move the arrow to the next activity or step. (This helps your child to understand what they have already done and what they need to do next.)

  • Point to the next picture/symbol in the sequence and encourage your child to complete the next activity/step.

  • Repeat steps 4 and 5 until the schedule is complete.

  • As your child learns how to use an activity schedule, they will need fewer prompts and begin to develop independence in transitioning between activities/steps. Over time, as your child learns new skills and develops understanding, their need to use a visual activity schedule may be reduced.

Top tips:

  • Make sure that each activity/step on the schedule is completed and in the order shown. (This reduces the possibility that using the schedule will increase your child's levels of anxiety.)

  • Visual activity schedules can be portable (moved around with the child) or kept in the same place, e.g.on a wall, board or fridge.

Go to the resources page or click here for a free sample of drawn images for use on a visual activity schedules.

Friday March 26th, 2021
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