Student Participation Supports

Accessible Schedule Displays - See the School Day!

Vicki Clarke
June 15, 2023

Accessible Schedule Displays - See the School Day!

Vicki Clarke
June 15, 2023

At DTA Schools, we use the term Student Participation Supports to refer to the tools we use to help students understand what is expected of them and to help them comfortably and cooperatively complete tasks to move throughout their daily activities. This means we are giving students information in a way they can understand, and teaching them tools to help them function in the academic environment.  We are striving for independence, cooperation and communication, NOT compliance. We often add visual elements to support our verbal explanations and directions. Our blog over the next few weeks will look at 4 different types of participation supports including Daily Schedules, Activity Schedules, First-Then Boards and Token Based Work Systems.

One of the first supports we put in place in classrooms is the Daily Schedule.

What are Accessible Schedule Displays?

Accessible schedule displays are visual representations of the major activities of the school day.  Much like our own daily calendars, they help students predict upcoming activities and to prepare themselves for their day.  Knowing upcoming events, and the events that follow, allows students to tolerate less desired activities by anticipating ones they enjoy!  Most visual schedules are designed to be interactive so that students have the satisfaction of "checking off" items they have completed.  This may be accomplished by moving  representative symbols or word cards to an "all done" location.  

Where do we place visual schedules?

Visual schedules which are permanently placed in a specific area of the classroom help students transition between activities by giving them a predictable routine between each activity.  The predictability makes it easier for students to move into the next, even unfamiliar activity.  The schedule "routine" provides students with a defined end to one activity and beginning to another.  This can be particularly helpful when a student has a challenging activity or time of day.  By successfully moving through the familiar schedule routine, the student experiences the comfort and satisfaction of successfully completing an expectation!

Teaching new words & habits through the schedule

A second benefit of the visual schedule is that it can be a means of introducing new symbols/words to a student by attaching meaning through pairing the symbol with familiar activities.  For example, I know to go to the table for snack time and I see the "snack" symbol each time  I go to the table for snack.  This helps me learn that the symbol "means" snack time!

Finally, scheduled routines give students a construct on which to "hang" new habits and behaviors. You can tie new habits to established routines and they are statistically more likely to be learned and become routine themselves.


Essential Components to Get Started

  • Visual representation (symbol) for each major activity: These should be visually accessible for all students so they could include high contrast picture symbols for students with visual processing challenges (CVI).  The could be written words for children who are literate.  They may be a simple Symbolstix symbol.  Some students may need a larger symbol or photograph.  Remember, the schedule is useless unless it makes immediate sense to the student. They need to understand the visual for the schedule to function as intended. If you want to use the schedule to help a child learn a new word/symbol, just be sure to pair the new symbol with a familiar one. You can do this by putting both the familiar symbol (such as a photograph) beside the new symbol (such as a PCS). You can also label the environment by putting the new symbol at the location of the activity and having the student move the photo from the schedule over to the activity location and match it with the new symbol.
  • Types of Symbols:
    - Objects:
    an item used during the activity (such as an extra cup to represent snack time), a piece of an item that gives a tactile cue (such as a piece of a rubber ball to symbolize the playground). These systems are somewhat unique but you can learn more about these HERE.
    - Photos:
    Make sure these are clear with limited visual background clutter
    - Picture Symbols:
    Consider using a familiar symbol set (Symbolstix for Unique Learning/News-2-You students, Boardmaker for Tobii Dynavox device owners)
    - Written Words
  • An "All Done" location or behavior to indicate the end of the activity You know that satisfaction you get when you cross off an item on your "to do" list?  Students like that too!  Make sure there is some action associated with the end of the activity.  Students can move the schedule symbol to an "all done" location (pocket, velcro strip etc).  They can close a "flap" over the symbol when finished.  They can move a check mark beside the symbol.  

Curated Video Explainers!


Stay tuned for more Student Participation Supports, as well as more free training blogs!

Recent Posts