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Visual support: Timetables

What is a visual timetable?

Visual timetables are a more permanent way of showing children what will happen rather than spoken language which is transient.

Why use a visual timetable?

Visual timetables are useful to help children:

  • Understand what they are going to do as part of their school day
  • See that there is a definite order to the day
  • Predict and anticipate events
  • Show that there is a start and finish point to activities and different parts of the day
  • Learn how different activities are related to each other (e.g. first work, then play)

How do I use a visual timetable?

The different ways of presenting the timetables can vary according to the needs of the children. They can be presented as:

  • Real objects, that represent activities, for example, a brick to represent building or a plate to represent dinner time
  • Pictures or photographs (photographs need to be very simple with as little as possible in the background to distract from what the picture is representing)
  • Symbols, such as widgit symbols to represent the activity
  • Written lists

It is essential that the timetables do not contain too much information to make it daunting to the child. It may be useful to have a timetable that runs from the start of school to break, break to dinner time and to be similarly broken up in the afternoon session. This will vary for each child and individuals may be able to cope with different amounts of information.

Timetables can be organised from top to bottom, for example, the pictures are blue-tacked onto a baseboard under one another or from left to right.

In using the timetable, the child needs to understand that a task is finished and is not going to be repeated at that time. The way that this is represented will depend on how the child’s timetable is represented.

  • For a timetable with real objects, when the task is finished, then the object can be removed and put away or put away or put in a ‘finished box’. The next task then becomes the top of the list.
  • For a timetable that is represented by pictures or symbols, the picture or symbol can be attached to the timetable by blue-tack and turned over when completed.
  • For a written list, the word can simply be crossed out when completed.

Once an organised bank of photos or objects or symbols is built up, then the timetable is very easy to run and provides the child with a simple but effective way of helping the child to understand the school day.

Contact us

For more information please contact the Speech and Language Therapy Service at Flockton House on 0114 226 2333.

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: SL89

Resource Type: Article

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