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Independent Activity Schedule (IAS)

Life gets busy. No matter how much of a Type A personality I have, I cannot be everywhere all the time. With that being said, I need to make sure the little ones are engaged in an activity while I am otherwise occupied (like making dinner, taking work calls, or going to the bathroom). Knowing that I can set aside some activities that are of interest, which also builds confidence because the kids can do them on their own, provides a sense of relief when I cannot be beside them from start to end of an activity.

What is an Independent Activity Schedule?

The independent activity schedule (IAS) is an essential program to teach. The goal of the IAS is to provide learners with instructions and tasks they can complete entirely on their own.

An example of an IAS in the school setting may include, “please go to your workspace and complete your quiz. When you finish, put it on my desk and you may do a quiet activity such as reading or drawing until recess”.

Why is the Independent Activity Schedule important?

The IAS is an important program for learners because it scaffolds on previously learned skills, sequences activities, and provides relief from 24/7 supervision. Being able to complete tasks independently allows for caregivers to have some time not directly observing the learner. While in school or work, it is unreasonable to expect your teacher or boss to provide constant supervision from step 1 all the way through to the end, not only for yourself, but for everyone else in the classwork or work place too.

An example of an IAS in the home setting may include, “please clean up your blocks when you are done making your tower. Then wash your hands and set the table while I make dinner”.

What are the parts of an Independent Activity Schedule?

The independent activity schedule should be independent. This means that the skills and activities expected of the learner should already be in their repertoire. The learner must have demonstrated that they can complete these tasks on their own across different contexts (e.g., in different environments, with different people, completing different variations of the activity, etc.).

The goal of an IAS is when an instruction of “find something to do” or “go complete your work” is given, the learner will follow an activity schedule to look at the activity, obtain the corresponding materials, complete the activity, clean up, and return to the schedule until the schedule is complete.

What the schedule looks like and what activities are on the schedule will depend entirely on the learner (e.g., is the schedule presented with textual or pictorial cues; is there 1 activity or 5; etc.).

What type of activities are in an Independent Activity Schedule?

There are two types of activities we talk about: closed-ended and open-ended activities.

Closed-Ended Activities: There is a clear end to the activity.
Example: a puzzle (once all the pieces are in place, the activity is complete)
Open-Ended Activities: There is no clear end to the activity.
Example: colouring (I can use 1 colour or 7; colour one part of the picture, or all parts of the picture; I can colour for 2-minutes or 2 hours, etc.)

Instructional Procedure:

Have the activity centre set up and available to learners to access preferred activities they can complete on their own. When provided with the instruction “time to play” (or equivalent), the learner moves to the activity centre and selects an activity.

When working on building independence on following an activity schedule, move from most-to-least prompting. Use the least amount of prompting that ensures the most amount of success!

Remember, we want to fade prompts quickly, but not at the risk of losing the skill. Use a prompt fading system that is most beneficial to the learner.

Download our free task analysis template to write out the steps and take data on your learners’ Independent Activity Schedule!

Suggested Teaching Strategies:

Rotate the activities (to avoid satiation) and rotate order of their placement in the schedule.

Start with most preferred activities, and intersperse preferred activities throughout the schedule.

Conduct a periodical preference assessment by placing various activities and asking the learner to choose one.

Prior to the start of the independent activity schedule, have the learner choose their reinforcer and place an image/text of the reinforcer on the schedule.


The IAS is perfect for school readiness skills! Watch more on our YouTube channel!

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