Visual Schedules serve as a visual prompt when teaching a child a new skill. They can be used to teach skills such as hand washing, making lunch, making fun stuff out of play-doh, getting dressed, tooth brushing, lining up for recess, etc.
Visual and Activity Schedules typically display pictures, either drawn or photographs, of each step necessary to complete the task at hand. They can be a series of pictures displayed on a poster or across a student's desk, pictures placed in consecutive order in a small photo album, or pictures placed consecutively in a binder. When planning which visuals are to be used, the teacher or "schedule designer" will typically refer to a task analysis and make sure that the pictures correspond with the steps in the analysis. When introducing a new skill, physical or gesture prompts are often needed to remind the student to refer to the schedule to complete specific steps in the task. If you find, however, that those prompts are being too heavily relied upon, it is very possible that the steps on the visual schedule have not been adequately planned.
Example of a visual schedule: A child is asked to complete a task or do an activity such as washing their hands.
1) Initially, the child is directed to their schedule (usually with a gesture prompt... this prompt should be faded rather quickly, though). The child looks at the first picture on the schedule (turn on the water), and completes the step specified.
2) Child looks at the next picture on the schedule (wet hands), completes the step.
3) Child looks at the next picture (rub palms together), etc. until the task is finished.
*Typically, the last item on the schedule is a picture of a preferred item or activity that the child earns as a result of completing the prior steps on the schedule.
Activity schedules = visual aids designed to help students with developmental disabilities exhibit specific activities which individual components have been previously mastered.
For example, one activity schedule may have a series of four pictures depicting a series of four activities: wash hands, eat lunch, go to recess, read a book. They can be used for activities ranging from playing with toys/art supplies appropriately to participating in a group activity at school, toileting and bathroom routines, completing academic work, making a meal, getting your lunch in line at school, checking out a book at the library, or even engaging in appropriate social interactions.