Visual Schedules using the iPad

There are numerous benefits to using Visual Schedules (VS) with individuals with Autism and there is also significant research supporting their use for individuals on the Autism Spectrum (AS).  A Visual Schedule can be the key to increasing independence and managing anxiety for students with Autism. This can make a huge difference to the child and in turn diminish meltdowns, anxious behaviour and foster positive growth. 

Individuals with Autism have problems coping with unstructured time and also have difficulty understanding and then following verbal instruction, therefore a VS can provide both structure and visual cues that they can follow (Van Bourgondien et al., 2003).


Advantages to Using a Visual Schedule

The advantages to using a VS with individuals on the AS include (Mesibov et al., 2005):

  • Utilizing the individual’s visual strengths, therefore providing a receptive communication system to increase understanding;
  • Helping the individual to learn new things, accept new challenges and broaden their interests;
  • Providing tools that allow the individual to use skills in a variety of settings;
  • Increasing the individual’s flexibility and ability to orient within the world;
  • Assisting the individual to remain calm and reduce inappropriate behaviours; and
  • Developing independence and resulting self-esteem.

Creating a Visual Timetable Using the iPad

The iPad is the perfect vehicle for creating a visual timetable.  You can use any of the writing apps such as Keynote or Pages to create a visual timetable.  keynotepages

Visual timetable (Click here to be taken to an example of a Visual Schedule created on the iPad).

To create this VS I used Keynote and Keynote’s animation capabilities to add and take away from the schedule. This also means the schedule can be moveable and interactive. You can make these as simple or complicated as you like.

The great thing about Keynote is that you can design your Visual Schedule to suit your students.

You can also use Pages to create Visual Schedules and you can also make this creation interactive and dynamic, using Pages tools.

There are many other apps that you can use to create Visual Schedules.

I like Popplet or Grafio.


These are actually Mindmapping apps, but can easily be utilized for VS.  See the Popplet example below:

popplet App for Autism Spectrum

I like Grafio as well as it has a lot more elements than most Mindmapping apps.  One aspect that I really like is that each element in your Mindmap has audio capabilities, making this an extremely powerful app for students on the Spectrum. So if we look at the example below, each of my pictures can have audio attached, providing students with audio visual support. This can be really beneficial for student in Secondary School. We often forget that older students need visual supports as well.

grafio App for Autism Spectrum

Here is another alternative. Each element can have a voice over, so the child knows what you expect from them.

Grafio App for Autism Spectrum

There are many, many apps out there such as First Then Visual Schedule.First then

This app is designed specifically for making VS. While I like the ease of use, I prefer to have the versatility to create my own designs and schedules using Apps listed above.

Overall, I believe the iPad is a unique device in that you can use the technology to easily and quickly create audio, visual, interactive and dynamic Visual Schedules.


Designing your Visual Schedule

  1. What do you want your VS to do (What behaviour do you want to address?)
  2. How should your VS look? What icons will you use? (Consider what form of information would consistently be most meaningful to the student).
  3. How long is your schedule and how will it be presented? (Some of your students may be more successful with one piece of information at a time, while others may be able to cope with a short sequence of activities or up to a full day. Some students can cope with a VS displayed at the front of the classroom, some will need the VS to sit at their desk).
  4. Can your schedule be continually manipulated? (Using the iPad means that you can easily interchange your icons on a daily basis, or you can duplicate for other students).
  5. Are the icons/pictures age appropriate?
  6. Do you need audio as a prompt for the visual icon?
  7. Introduce the schedule to your students so that they know what you expect of them.
  8. Regularly update.


Davies, C. (2008). Using visual schedules: A guide for parents. The Reporter, 14(1), 18-22.

Massey, G. & Wheeler, J. (2000). Acquisition and generalization of activity schedules and their effects on task engagement in a young child with autism in an inclusive preschool classroom. Education and Training in Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, 35, 326-335.

Mesibov, G., Browder, D., & Kirkland, C. (2002). Using individualized schedules as a component of positive behavior support for students with developmental disabilities. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 25, 58-72.

Van Bourgondien, M., Reichle, N. & Schopler, E. (2003). Effects of a model treatment approach on adults with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 33, 131-140.


by Karen Barley (GradDipEd, Posgrad DipEd, Med (SpEd) )

Karen is an Australian teacher with over 20 years’ experience in both mainstream and special education. Her interest in Autism and how to provide better educational opportunities for her students led her to iPads. Karen conducts professional development for teachers in Australia and the USA, works as an Autism Consultant and conducts a number of online courses on iPads in Education, Autism Awareness, and 21st Century Education. She can be contacted through her website:

Check out Karen’s workshops on the TTA website

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