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Visual Schedules Part 1: VBS Rotations

July 8, 2013

Special needs ministry leaders and volunteers are some of the most resourceful people on the planet.  In recent months, I’ve seen brilliant use of visual schedules in a couple of church settings.  And so today and tomorrow, we’ll share those ideas and spotlight the ministries that created them.  If you’ve seen or developed a useful tool inside your special needs ministry, leave a comment or send me an email (  Practical ideas with pictures are always popular posts on this blog.

Today’s post and idea comes from Deana Troyer, who made a brief mention on Facebook that she was preparing visual schedules for VBS rotations earlier in June.  And within minutes, I was pestering her to share more. ~ AFL


Screen Shot 2013-07-04 at 12.14.30 PM

Offering individual visual schedules is one way our church works to create a successful VBS experience for kids with special needs.  Many children struggle with transitions or unexpected changes.  Without preparation, an otherwise content student may exhibit anxiety-driven behaviors when faced with a new room or new activity.  This can be especially challenging for VBS when the whole day is one rotation after another.  We have found that by providing our ministry participants visual cues and countdowns, they are more likely to transition through their rotations more smoothly.

How we created the individual visual schedules:

Step 1 Downloaded VBS theme graphics*
Step 2 Created one-word description & graphic for each rotation
Step 3 Printed rotation description & graphic on 4×6 cards
Step 4 Laminated the index cards for durability
Step 5 Punched hole in corner of index cards
Step 6 Added a 1” binder ring (from office supply store)
Step 7 Created Let’s Go card, cut small slit from edge of card to hole.**

* Many VBS curriculum providers have a website or CD where you can download graphics.  For us, we downloaded graphics from Lifeway’s VBS site.  If a VBS curriculum provider doesn’t provide downloadable graphics, you may be able to find  suitable illustrations by using Google Images and taking screen shots associated with images that represent your church’s rotation activities.  You could also take a picture of the actual rooms or activities and use them as your visual schedule graphics.

**  For the Let’s Go card, we instructed buddies to slip them on and off the visual schedule ring.  This card could be moved at the end of each rotation before going to the next location, or it could be removed and handed to the child to carry as they transitioned.

Text on the Buddy Instruction Sheets:

Arrange cards in the order of you student’s rotations.  The Let’s Go card can be easily removed and handed to your assigned student for transition between activities.Use a countdown to ease a student into a transition.  Near end of session, tell your student things like:

  • “3 minutes, then we go to ____”
  • “2 minutes, then we go to ____”
  • “1 minute, then we go to ____”
  • “All done. Time to go to ____” and lead them out.

The Special Needs Room is available if your kiddo needs a break. No volunteer is to be alone with a kiddo. Text “SN” to cell phone # to notify name of designated contact that you are heading to the designated SN room. Someone will meet you there so you are not alone.

Our visual schedule rings and cards looked similar to the below picture, but with just enough 4 x 6 index cards for each rotation and with the corresponding graphics.

Screen Shot 2013-07-05 at 2.37.38 PM

Here is a download of the printout we used for our visual schedule graphics:  VBS Visual Schedule on 4 x 6 cards

Enjoy the Ride! ~ Deana Troyer


Screen Shot 2013-07-04 at 7.19.37 PM For seven years, Deana Troyer has served as the Coordinator of the Special Needs Ministry for Idlewild Baptist Church in Tampa, Florida.  Idlewild currently embraces around 60 families through this ministry and Deana loves learning from each of them.  


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See this post and others on Pinterest

Other posts about visual schedules:

Movable Visual Schedules

Teaching Children with Autism

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