Activity Schedules

Description: An activity schedule is a set of pictures or words that are intended to cue a child to engage in a sequence of activities or behavior chain (see entry for behavior chain appearing below). Schedules are used to help individuals with autism spectrum disorders independently perform tasks such as completing self-help activities (e.g., dressing), selecting play or leisure activities, or attending to school or work assignments. For some individuals, the schedule may consist of a series of pictures corresponding to activities (e.g., a picture of getting dressed, followed by one for having breakfast, and another for getting on the bus to school or work). For other individuals, schedules may be presented in appointment books, Palm-pilots, or simply “to do” lists.

Research Summary: Many studies show that the use of activity schedules, presented in a variety of formats, is effective in increasing a variety of skills in individuals with autism such as engagement in academic, vocational, and leisure activities, independence in transitioning between activities and settings, participation in family activities, and daily living skills.

Recommendations: The use of activity schedules is an effective teaching procedure for individuals with autism in increasing a variety of skills, as well as independent performance of a sequence of skills.

Selected References:

Systematic reviews of scientific studies:

Odom, S.L., Brown, W.H., Frey, T., Karasu, N., Smith-Canter, L.L., & Strain, P.S. (2003). Evidence-based practices for young children with autism: Contributions for single-subject design research. Focus of Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 18, 166-175.

Stromer, R., Kimball, J.W., Kinney, E.M., & Taylor, B.A. (2006). Activity Schedules, Computer Technology, and Teaching Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Focus of Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 21, 14-24.

Selected scientific studies:

MacDuff, G.S., Krantz, P.J., & McClannahan, L.E. , (1993). Teaching children with autism to use photographic activity schedules: Maintenance and generalization of complex response chains.Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 26, 89-97.

For additional information :

McClannahan, L. E., & Krantz, P. J. (1999). Activity schedules for children with autism: Teaching independent behavior. Bethesda, MD: Woodbine House .