How to Use Visual Supports to Promote Structure, Routine and Transitions


First-then board used in therapy.

Many children require structure and routine within their day to help promote their ability to engage in daily activities, shift from one task to another and engage in learning. Visual supports can help promote and establish structure and routine in various environments including the home and school. Visual supports also allow children to anticipate what is expected of them. They help increase their ability to initiate and participate in daily activities and routines.

Try these visual supports at home or in school:

Visual Schedules: Visual schedules can be pictorial, written or both. You can display pictures representing each of the activities your child is expected to complete on a Velcro strip in sequential order. When each task is completed, your child can remove the picture from the Velcro strip and place it in an “all done” pocket of the visual or an “all done” container. You can also write the name of each task and/or draw a picture to represent the task on a dry erase board and have your child either cross off or erase each task upon its completion. Have your child engage and assist in the development of the visual schedule (e.g. assist in drawing the pictures that represent each task) and review the schedule prior to its use.

First-Then Boards: First-then boards encourage compliance and follow through for challenging and non-preferred tasks. You can place a picture of the less preferred task first with an arrow towards the more preferred task, to motive your child to engage in all activities.


Countdown board created by Sima.

Countdown Boards: Countdown boards allow your child to see how many times he or she has to complete a task. For example, if your child has to throw a ball 5 times, draw a circle 5 times, or place a puzzle piece 5 times and you can have him or her remove a number off the countdown board after each time the task is carried out.

These three visual supports can not only increase your child’s engagement in daily activities, but they can also make transitioning from one task or activity to another much smoother. They can be implemented in various environments and can easily be transported throughout the community.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!


Sima Rashidianfar

Sima Rashidianfar is a licensed and registered occupational therapist (MS, OTR/L) with a love and passion for working with the pediatric population. She received her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Human Development & Family Studies with a concentration in Child & Adolescent Development. She then received her Master of Science degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago in Occupational Therapy. Sima is also a certified Early Intervention Specialist. She recently spent a year at Aspire Kids in Hillside, servicing children with developmental disabilities within homes/daycares through Early Intervention and at the outpatient clinic. Sima has experience working with children who have autism, sensory processing disorders, developmental delay, ADHD, brachial plexus, prematurity, learning disabilities, Down Syndrome, and muscular dystrophy. Prior to attending graduate school, Sima worked at Giant Steps Illinois in Lisle, a therapeutic day school for children with Autism. Sima is dedicated to assisting children with their engagement and participation in daily activities both directly and in collaboration with parents, caretakers, and other professionals, to help meet each child’s greatest potential.

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