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Special Education Visual Schedules on a stick!

visual schedules horizontal

What is a picture schedule in special education

If you're looking for something to help students in special education, early childhood, or language support needs find their way to more independence, try visual schedules! If you're in special education or work with students with disabilities, I'm sure this isn't a new concept to you. 

Visual schedules help students know what's going on, set them up for more independence, provide proactive behavior support, and they like them! It takes some work from the teacher beforehand, but once visual schedules are set up, they will make your life so much easier.

There are many types of visual schedules and visual prompts, but I just wanted to share one quick and fun method that I've used using *paint stirrers* in 4 easy steps!

Visual Schedules or Visuals Routines using Paint Stir Sticks

This need came from the fact that many of the students I have worked with are moderately or significantly affected by autism or other disabilities. They are 1) visual learners and 2) not skilled at referencing “big group” visual schedules. I have seen and used a variety of personal schedules that everyone is familiar with, but they are usually stationary (on a table or wall) or too bulky to carry (in a binder or on a clipboard). I thought this idea might be just the ticket for students who are more independent and can carry their own schedules around! 

Step 1: Pick up paint stirrers

I went to the hardware store and got 15 paint stirrers. They charged me $.20 a stick. Big money.

You could probably even ask them to donate them. They are really cheap, anyway, and companies do like to help in small ways, and this is an easy one! Doesn't hurt to ask!

visual schedules blank sticks

Step 2: Grab some wood stain

wood finish for visual schedules
painted sticks for visual schedules

I bought (on the hardware store guy's suggestion) a dark stain to cover the logo and protect the “wood” (I use the word “wood” loosely; it's pretty flimsy). I used a foam brush to stain them. I went over them twice. Probably could have done a third coat, but I'm inherently lazy.

Step 3: Spray clear lacquer

After a day of solid drying, I used a spray clear lacquer and did about three coats of the lacquer. I would have done a couple more, but the can was low when I started, and I ran out. To make it more “solid” and smooth, a couple more quick layers would be smart.

In fact, you could probably wood glue two together before painting and staining them and make them more sturdy. I just thought of that now, and I might try that next time!

lacquer on visual schedules

Step 4: Print, laminate, velcro

visual schedules paint stirrer

Print 1″ x 1″ icons for your visual schedule pieces. I think even 1 1/2″ would work. Hook-and-loop (aka Velcro™) on the back. Easy peasy.

You can place the finished schedules vertical or horizontal.

Students can easily carry these schedules around. They are light! 

You'll want to provide an easy way to keep the completed or unused icons organized when you're not using them like a zipped bag or folder or Velcro in a folder.


And that's it! Super easy and visually appealing. Great way to help your students gain independence, learn and follow their schedules, and feel a part of your classroom!

Find some great Life Skills visuals here!

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