CONVERTED TO POST Visual Schedules & Basic Negotiation Skills For Enhanced Communication To Reduce Challenging Behaviour

This is part of the comprehensive parent training course:


M4/U4 Visual Schedules & Basic Negotiation Skills Training

Visual Schedules:

Communication as stated is an important part of the approaches used to help people transition and to reduce the need for challenging behaviour. Here is why:

Visual aids can deliver information more directly:

Visual communication is more flexible than verbal communication. Visual aids are more attention-grabbing and engaging. Research has been able to establish that visual communication makes an impact on the audience

Why is visual communication so powerful? It isn’t just because of the pretty pictures; it’s straight-up science. The brain absorbs and synthesises visual information faster than any other stimuli, making visual content an incredibly effective medium.

Visual learning also helps students to develop visual thinking, which is a learning style whereby the learner comes better to understand and retain information better by associating ideas, words and concepts with images

Why Images?
Because we process visual stimulation at lightning speed, images are likely to prompt strong emotion, which in turn can lead to action. The so-called ‘visual cortex,’ responsible for processing visuals, is much more powerful than previously thought, researchers at Michigan State University discovered in a recent study.

What are Visual schedules?

They are visual tools that provide individuals with a visual representation of tasks or activities in a sequential order. They are used to support organisation, predictability, and independence in daily routines and tasks. Visual schedules are especially beneficial for individuals with autism or other developmental disabilities who may have difficulties with understanding verbal instructions or transitioning between activities.

Why are visual schedules used?

  1. Enhance understanding: Visual schedules provide a clear and visual representation of what needs to be done, helping individuals understand and anticipate the sequence of activities.
  2. Promote independence: By having a visual reference, individuals can follow the schedule independently, reducing the need for constant verbal prompts or reminders.
  3. Support transitions: Visual schedules can help individuals transition from one activity to another smoothly, as they provide a visual cue for what is coming next, reducing anxiety and uncertainty.
  4. Increase task completion: Visual schedules break down tasks or activities into smaller, manageable steps, making it easier for individuals to follow and complete them.
  5. Improve time management: By including time indicators or timers within the visual schedule, individuals can learn to allocate appropriate time for each activity, promoting time management skills.

Examples of visual schedules:

  1. Morning routine: A visual schedule can include pictures or symbols representing tasks such as brushing teeth, getting dressed, eating breakfast, and packing a bag.
  2. Classroom schedule: In a school setting, a visual schedule can outline the daily activities, including subjects, break times, and transitions between classes.
  3. Chores schedule: A visual schedule can be used to guide individuals through household chores, with tasks such as making the bed, tidying up toys, and setting the table.
  4. Therapy session schedule: Visual schedules can be utilised in therapy sessions to outline the activities or tasks that will be covered during the session, helping individuals understand and engage in the therapy process.

Figure 1. Basic First Then Schedule

Figure 2. Complex Visual Schedule

Basic Negotiation Skills:

In Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA), basic negotiation skills refer to teaching individuals to communicate their needs or preferences to request more time or a break from a task or activity. It is an important skill to teach individuals who engage in escape-maintained behaviours, where they exhibit challenging behaviours to avoid or escape from demands or undesired situations.

Why do we use basic negotiation skills in ABA?

  1. Communication alternative: By teaching negotiation skills, individuals are provided with a socially appropriate and functional way to communicate their need for a break or more time, reducing the occurrence of challenging behaviours.
  2. Promote independence: When individuals can effectively negotiate for breaks or additional time, they gain a sense of control and autonomy over their environment, leading to increased independence.
  3. Reduce challenging behaviours: Negotiation skills can serve as an alternative response to escape-maintained behaviours. By teaching individuals to request breaks or more time, the occurrence of challenging behaviours used for escape purposes can decrease.
  4. Foster social interactions: Basic negotiation skills involve communicating with others to request a specific need. This skill helps individuals engage in social interactions and promotes positive communication exchanges with peers and adults.

Incorporating pictures in negotiation skills:
Pictures can be a helpful tool in teaching negotiation skills, even if someone can read. Pictures provide a visual support that aids in understanding and recalling the negotiation process. They can be used to represent key components, such as a visual representation of a break or additional time. Pictures can also be utilised to create visual scripts or cue cards that guide individuals in effectively using negotiation skills during specific situations.

By incorporating pictures, individuals can better comprehend and remember the steps involved in negotiating, increasing their ability to apply these skills in real-life situations. Visual supports help individuals process information more efficiently, reinforce learning, and promote independence in communication.


Instead of engaging in problem behaviour or escape maintain behaviour from tasks we can prompt someone to ask for a break. They could for example get 3 breaks per hour.


When transitioning from an activity that is enjoyed we can prompt the individual to ask for more time. We might say give 3 of these per hour and it will negate the need for challenging behaviour.

In summary:

Visual schedules and basic negotiation skills are valuable components of ABA and verbal behaviour interventions. Visual schedules provide a visual representation of tasks or activities, promoting understanding, independence, and smooth transitions. Basic negotiation skills allow individuals to communicate their needs or preferences, reducing challenging behaviours and fostering independence and social interactions. Pictures can enhance the effectiveness of these interventions by providing visual supports and reinforcing learning, even for individuals who can read.