Building Bridges Using Visual Schedules

Organization Information:

Organization Name:
The Friendship Network for Children, Inc.
City & State:
Organization Website:
Organization's Mission Statement

The Friendship Network for Children, Inc. serves children ages 3-17 with autism. Our mission is to decrease the loneliness of isolated children. We help them experience the joys of friendship—often for the first time.

Submission Information

Impact Essay

The Friendship Network serves children with autism. At the heart of autism is a social learning disability. Children with autism need information about their world given in different ways. It is commonly accepted that children with autism often need information given in a visual manner. They often need pictures, photographs, drawings or written explanations and directions prior to any type of interaction. Our goal is to connect with them in their world and then build a bridge to our world. As therapists working with these children we wondered, “How do we get this information to them before we see them?” A computer is a natural choice and using a program everyone has, Microsoft Word, was the tool for the job.

We use photos and put them in a Microsoft Word document. We then email them to the family’s home or school. These are called visual schedules or visual supports. The document is then printed out and shown to the child or children. A visual schedule is often put in our waiting room when children come for socialization groups. There are only 2 clinicians at this agency as we are fairly new. However we see over 100 children with autism weekly. Unfortunately, we are not the most computer savvy, but Microsoft Word saved the day. We tried other programs but they were too complicated and parents and teachers could not easily edit the documents in order to reuse them with these children.

The simple use of visual schedules has allowed us to connect with the children we serve. This simple intervention is often under utilized because of the time it takes to create and some of the specialized programs in the special education world are cost prohibitive. The use of visual schedules and supports dramatically changes the therapeutic impact of what we do and allows children to participate more fully in everyday life.

Visual schedules have allowed us to go into classrooms, thus expanding our client base. The schedule is created and emailed to the teacher prior to our arrival. The teacher then prints the visual schedule and reviews it with the children. This helps reduce anxiety and confusion and lets the children to know what to expect. Surprises or changes are very difficult for children with autism to navigate.

Using Microsoft Word to create visual schedules is a very simple process, but it dramatically increases the quality of life for the children we serve.

Submission Category
Transformations to Maximize Impact