How Visual Schedules Aids Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Subject: Mental Health
Type: Informative Essay
Pages: 5
Word count: 1242
Topics: Autism, Childhood, Disease, Health, Medicine
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Introduction

As explained by Denning and Moody (2013), research indicates that the prevalence of autistic children has increased in the past years, and it is now approximately 1 in 88 children. ASD impacts the physical, verbal and social behaviors of children. Therefore, individuals faced with challenges of ASD often seek out solutions from evidence-based practices that are useful in developing new skills, promoting independence and reducing inappropriate behaviors among the affected group. Boyd, McDonough, and Bodfish (2012) assert that applied behavior analysis allows learners to generalize functional skills and promotes their independence. One of the antecedent interventions that can be useful to children diagnosed with ASD is visual schedule. According to Denning and Moody (2013), visual schedule entails a visual representation that communicates a sequence of activities or events that will happen during the day or within the task. Visual schedules are significant for breaking down tasks thus allowing children to follow guidelines and deadlines. The paper will examine the impact of visual schedules on children diagnosed with ASD.

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Significance of Visual Schedule on Children with ASD

First, visual schedules aids in enhancing receptive language by utilizing the visual strengthen of an individual. With improved receptive communication system, a child with ASD can increase his or her understanding. According to Liu and Breslin (2013), previous research indicates that students diagnosed with ASD exhibit a number of strengths such as sustained attention and visuospatial skills. Moreover, research indicates that even though students with ASD experience challenges of processing lengthy verbal requests including directives on the schedule of an activity or where to attend the classes, they have shown successfulness in attending to visual information. Spriggs, Gast, and Ayres (2007) add that in a situation when a teacher or an adult provides students with ASD with a verbal information on a sequence of information that will happen, they may face challenges of the fleeting nature of the verbal language and quick comprehension skills required. Also, in a situation when the child forgets the information, they do not have a stable system they can use for reference. Therefore, with visual schedules, students can comprehend information, and they can use it as a channel of learning. Also, since visual schedules are easily accessible, children can use it remind themselves of the day’s activities.

Second, visual schedules aids in developing independence and self-esteem. Waters, Lerman and Hovanetz (2009) assert that independence developed as a result of using visual schedule eliminates the needs by students to ask adults about schoolwork. Also, the independence increases student’s acceptance by peers. Spriggs, Gast, and Ayres (2007) recommend that it is ideal for teachers to teach children with autism about visual schedules rather than aiding them to move around the classroom. Previous research indicates that moving from the use of verbal cues to visual cues can increase the engagement and independence of students and also decreases the need for adult assistance (Wiley, Gustafson & Rozniak, 2013). Even with the existence of visual schedules, some students will still depend on visual stimulus for directives on appropriate location; however, the schedules are significant due to punctuality and organization.

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Third, visual schedules also play a critical role in reducing anxiety in students diagnosed with ASD. Boyd et al. (2012) state that visual schedules reduce anxiety in students by increasing their flexibility. Students diagnosed with ASD tend to develop anxiety when the predictable routines have not been met, or expectations are not clear. With a visual schedule, students get a clear external structure for a school day, which can calm them physiologically. Schools might have varied activities throughout the day or week, but the use of visual schedules enhances safety and predictability for students (Cihak, 2011). The responsibility of the classroom staff is to vary the sequence of activities or events in school while also ensuring that students consistently use visual schedules to get information. Lastly, visual schedules can aid students to understand that changing sequence of activities is acceptable since the procedure of using visual schedules is reliable.

Fourth, visual schedules help students with ASD to develop an understanding of time, and this will aid in facilitating their ability to predict change. According to Spriggs, Gast, and Ayres (2007), autistic children can benefit from organization, structure, and predictability offered by using visual schedules. When autistic children lack such supports, they tend to perceive the world as unpredictable and confusing. On the same note, Denning and Moody (2013) argue most children with ASD experience challenges such as a poor sense of time thus exhibiting the difficulty to understand the vocabulary of time and order. For instance, many students with autism cannot differentiate words such as yesterday, before, first, second and then. As the schedule is set up, these words will be used on a regular basis. Teachers can use visual schedules to aid students to understand time concepts and vocabulary (Cihak, 2011).

Fifth, visual schedules aid autistic children by providing them with information or an overview of the activities and events that will happen during the day or week. With visual schedules, students can identify specific tasks that will occur at specific times (Waters, Lerman & Hovanetz, 2009). Also, it can function as a reminder that the preferred event is few steps away thus assisting children in developing patience and persistence (Liu & Breslin, 2013).

Conclusion

The prevalence of children suffering from ASD has increased in the past years, and it is now approximately 1 in 88 children. A visual schedule is one of the antecedent interventions that can be useful to children diagnosed with ASD. It encompasses visual representations that communicate a sequence of activities that will occur throughout the day or within the task Visual schedules aids in enhancing receptive language, developing independence and self-esteem, and reducing anxiety. Also, it helps autistic children to understand time management thus facilitating their ability to predict change. Even though in most cases people associate visual schedules with pictures or photographs, events can also be perceived through word phrases or objects. The effectiveness of visual schedules is portrayed when teachers or parents ensure that their children have a vivid understanding of the concepts of sequenced events or activities.

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  1. Boyd, B. A., McDonough, S. G., & Bodfish, J. W. (2012). Evidence-based behavioral interventions for repetitive behaviors in autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 42(6), 1236-1248.
  2. Cihak, D. F. (2011). Comparing pictorial and video modeling activity schedules during transitions for students with autism spectrum disorders. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 5(1), 433-441.
  3. Denning, C. B., & Moody, A. K. (2013). Supporting students with autism spectrum disorders in inclusive settings: Rethinking instruction and design. Electronic Journal for Inclusive Education, 3(1), 1-21.
  4. Liu, T., & Breslin, C. M. (2013). The effect of a picture activity schedule on performance of the MABC–2 for children with autism spectrum disorder. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 84(2), 206-212.
  5. Spriggs, A. D., Gast, D. L., & Ayres, K. M. (2007). Using picture activity schedule books to increase on-schedule and on-task behaviors. Education and Training in Developmental Disabilities, 42(2), 209-223.
  6. Waters, M. B., Lerman, D. C., & Hovanetz, A. N. (2009). Separate and combined effects of visual schedules and extinction plus differential reinforcement on problem behavior occasioned by transitions. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 42(2), 309-313.
  7. Wiley, S., Gustafson, S., & Rozniak, J. (2013). Needs of parents of children who are deaf/hard of hearing with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 19(1), 40-49.
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