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Importance of Keeping a Summer Schedule

Curtis Harris, BCBA


  • Daily Schedule: A schedule displayed either in text or picture that conveys the order and times of events each day.
  • Activity Schedule: “A set of pictures or words that cues someone to engage in a sequence of activities… The goal of teaching schedule use is to enable children with autism to perform tasks and activities without direct prompting and guidance by parents or teachers.” (McClannahan & Krantz, 2010).


  • Organize a daily schedule in terms of your child’s and your family’s needs.
  • Describe the benefits of activity schedules according to the ABA literature.
  • Select a method for training an activity schedule that most suits your child’s needs.
  • Locate resources to implement your selected method.

Benefits - Increase

  • Increase independence for:
    • Self-care
    • Appropriate solitary play
    • Academic work
  • Increase social interactions:
    • Family
    • Peers
  • Increase collaborative work skills
  • Broaden interests
  • Maintain value of preferred activities
  • Flexibility
  • Language
  • Compliance

Benefits - Decrease

  • Decrease stereotypy
  • Decrease problem behaviors:
    • Disruptive
    • Self-Injurious
    • Aggressive


  • Picture object correspondence.
  • Accept manual guidance.
  • 6-8 visual directions presented individually (Frost & Bondy 2002).

What Activities to Include


  • Contribute to household (chore)
  • Self-care
  • Social interaction
  • Outside exercise
  • Community – recreational
  • Community – errands
  • Broaden interest
  • Preferred activities
  • Independent play
  • Academic/reading time
  • Quiet time

Deciding on the Order

  • Rule #1: Preferred activities follow nonpreferred activities.
  • Before highly nonpreferred, schedule a slightly preferred activity.
  • Schedule a quiet activity before bedtime (no screen time).

Tips on Building the Schedule

  • Make 2 lists (don’t worry about order):
    • 1) Time-specific daily activities – meals, self-care and bedtime routine
    • 2) Other activities to include.
  • Arrange the time-specific activities in order.
  • Arrange non-time-specific priority activities.
  • Arrange preferred activities.


  • Binder (McClannahan & Krantz, 2010).
  • Strip (Frost & Bondy, 2002)
  • Powerpoint (Reinfeld et al., 2004)

Signaling End of Activity

  • What is the natural cue?
    • Project complete.
    • Lunch items have all been consumed.
    • The last page of a book has been read.
    • Timer beeps.
    • A video ends.

Teaching Flexibility (Frost & Bondy, 2002)

  • Place a picture symbolizing surprise (!).
  • The learner waits to hear what the surprise is.
  • Begin with pleasant surprises (e.g. ice cream party!).
  • Once the learner anticipates something different, begin neutral surprises (substitute one preferred snack for another).
  • Eventually, you can use for nonpreferred surprises (no outside time because it is raining).

Language (Frost & Bondy, 2002)

  • Sabotage the routine!
    • Learner goes to get forks but they aren’t there.
    • Learner goes to get forks but something else is in there place (socks!)
    • Required items are visible but out of reach.
    • There are not enough forks

Collaboration (White et al., 2011)

  • Trained two children to clean the kitchen.
  • Listed steps on laminated sheet.
  • Child crossed off the step before beginning it.
  • Other child began next step and crossed it off before beginning.
  • A more ideal task would have been baking cake or cookies.


  • Avoid verbal prompts.
  • Independent activities: “Activity Schedules for Children with Autism” by McClannahan and Krantz.
  • Want more information?


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