Using Visual Supports to Help Your Child Understand and Communicate

Brief Introduction: Difficulties with communication is a common problem for children who have autism and other developmental disabilities. Using visual strategies with these children can be helpful in supporting and increasing both their receptive and expressive communication skills. Visual communication tools such as objects, photographs, picture symbols, daily schedules and choice boards can provide the support necessary to greatly improve the child’s understanding and ability to communicate, helping children be more active, independent and successful participants in their own lives. Visual strategies can be used to prevent challenging behavior as well as serve as “static reminders” of verbal directions. “Static” refers to the fact that the visual support remains present after words are spoken, so that children can refer to them once the spoken words are no longer present). Just as adults use calendars, grocery lists, and “to do” lists to enhance memory, our children (with and without disabilities) also benefit from these kinds of visual reminders. Many children with disabilities also have strong visual skills and these strengths can be capitalized on with visual supports.
For example, visual supports can be created and used to teach children of any age about typical daily routines. Once taught, the adult can fade out of the routine and allow the child to self-monitor the routine to completion. The following article provides additional information about using visual supports, such as calendars, schedules, checklists and choice boards. Directions regarding how to create a visual support as well as how to access various internet resources are also included in the information that follows.

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