What is a visual schedule?

What is a visual schedule?

A visual schedule is a plan that helps those students with limited abilities who cannot communicate, such as those children-through-adults limited speeches, sensory issues, and developmentally challenged as well as autism. They have trouble understanding and giving input to instructions. Persons with limited speech and autism often have difficulty following verbal directions and social cues.  A schedule helps a person to see a plan of action for the exercise session order of events, as well as remain calm, reduce inappropriate behaviors, develop independence, and increase self-esteem.  Even if the whole group does not need a schedule, working with a group of both special needs students and regular education students helps the whole group see a beginning and ending to an exercise session.  A visual schedule is also helpful for breaking down a task that has multiple steps to ensure the teaching and compliance of those steps.

There are many types of schedules.  I will only go briefly into each one but later I will have more detailed information on each one.

A wide range of items can be used as visual supports. For example:

Object Schedule or Tactile Schedule: tactile symbols/objects of reference, e.g., swimming trunks, packaging, food labels, photographs, short videos, and miniatures of real objects

This is most helpful for the limited vision learner, those with severe/profound cognitive disabilities, and early learners.

What is a visual schedule?

Colored Pictures: This helps learners associate a similar activity with another that goes together.  Colored pictures also help identify various group activities. For example, Jack’s activities are always in red and Jane’s are pink.

Pictures Symbols, Realistic Pictures, and Line Drawings: They are great for those learners who need simple pictures. Color generic pictures are also good for showing items in a simple way. Photos are great to show the exact or a more realistic picture of what task you want them to accomplish, such as the actual activities of using the dumbbells, barbells, or medicine balls in a fitness station.

What is a visual schedule?
Picture from Christine Reeves Autism Classroom

Checklist or Written Schedule: They are great for readers and those more high-functioning.  Just like the sequential shopping list, you take to your local grocery store, just think about the gym and what you need to do in order to successfully complete a workout.

What is a visual schedule?

Effective schedules are portable and easy to carry in a binder, clipboard, or tablet.  Laminated ones are more durable and last longer. Keeping an extra copy or two as well as a copy for your computer allows you to retain pieces that might get lost.  They can be hard copies or on a Smartphone, iPad, or tablet.

What is a visual schedule?

Using a schedule will help ease the stress for both trainer and client as you navigate the exercise session.  It helps keep the trainer organized and prepares the nonverbal learner for the next activity.  As you continue to work with a specialized population, you will see independence and possibly the need to revise the schedule from one to another or individualize for each participant. Even though it is a challenge, the rewards for working with these participants far outweigh the negative. Using a schedule makes clear, defined, and brief parameters.  We all need stability and boundaries.

What is a visual schedule?


Autism Speaks


8 Types of Visual Student Schedules


Using Visual Schedules: A Guide for Parents


Visual Schedules Series: 7 Reasons to Use Schedules


Visual Supports


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Christina Chapan

Christina Chapan

Christina Lee Steele Chapan is a certified personal trainer with four certifications from ISSA ACE, AFAA and SCW. She specializes with fitness for children and those adults and children with special needs. In addition to attaining her certifications, she is also a certified elementary and special education school teacher with a B.S. in Elementary Education, a minor in Biblical Studies from North Central University, an endorsement in Special Education, and an M.A. in Curriculum and Development from Governors State University. Her passion is for training the future of tomorrow. She is available for training, speaking and writing.
Christina Chapan

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