Visual learning resources for those who think in pictures

Visual learning resources
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The title of Temple Grandin’s book ‘Thinking in Pictures’ is such an apt description for how I see my eldest son.  Whilst my first language is English I see his as pictures, he has a very visual brain. The things he excels at such as LEGO and puzzles are all based on having great visual skills.

Communication is still challenging for both my children and as such it is vital that I adapt my communication / teaching methods to their needs.  In this post I want to talk about visual learning and share some of the resources we like to use.

maths worksheets from twinkl
Maths worksheets from Twinkl

Using visuals to support learning

If we want our children to learn something we need to make it easy for them to focus on that skill.  I can’t teach my son addition if his mind is filled with anxiety. So before we even attempt to learn something I need to give him as much information as possible:

  • What are we doing
  • How long are we doing this for
  • What do I expect him to do
  • What will be happening next

Using this structure around learning is really effective, using routine will help children to know when it is time for learning.  I also highly recommend using the TEACCH method which is structured and visual.

TEACCH at Home

Alongside visual schedules such as now and next. Having all this in place provides a much better structure / environment for my son to learn. 

PECS Visual schedule board

It’s not easy and honestly my 5 year old still has days he can’t / won’t engage in structured learning activities but that is because he is 5 and still learning how to learn! Most autism specialist teaching methods or activities have a strong visual element, for example Attention Autism is all about being visually appealing to gain attention.

I am a strong believer in learning through play and we spend a significant amount of time playing and doing things like story or messy play. Having said that there is still an important place for more formal learning particularly around core skills like reading, writing and maths.  

Most of us need a wide variety of resources to support learning and as such we need to be using a range of visuals also.

Videos are great to support learning but can be too fast for those like my son that need longer processing time when learning something new or complicated.   Apps are another great way to learn while having fun.  Books are a great visual resource along with social stories. Another great way to support learning visually is using visual prompts and signing can be one of those prompts.

For more formal learning I need visual resources, finding good ones can be difficult so here I am sharing some of my favourite places for visual worksheets / resources and supports:

Best visual learning printables

Twinkl is one of my favourite places for worksheets that are visually clear and they have lots of free resources alongside the paid options. One we have enjoyed using recently is the emotion sorting activity.

emotion sorting
emotion sorting activity from Twinkl

Orchard Toys – have a great selection of worksheets with very clear visuals.  You can also sign up for their daily worksheets at the moment for those home schooling in lockdown.  

PECS UK – have some great activities to do on their support at home page that includes printable PECS cards to use alongside the activity.

Teachers Pay Teachers – there are many teacher based sites that you can access great printables and this is one we use, again there are many free options alongside paid ones.

Cardiff and Vale University Health Board have created this Supporting Children with Learning Disability/ASD Coping with COVID-19 Isolation booklet which includes visuals and activities with visual instructions.

Using Favourite Characters for motivation

It can be really hard to motivate kids to do learning at home and using familiar and favourite characters can help with that motivation. Here are some great free printable activities from some of our favourites.

If you are still struggling with motivation then I do recommend trying rewards systems. Also remember the child may not be ready for table top work and if so just take a step back and do other activities like mark making building up the skills needed for when you try again.

Creating visuals at home

There are many reasons you may need to create your own visuals. If you are using the Picture Exchange Communication System like us you may need access to a large number of visuals you can use for PECS as well as visual aids for learning.  I have a post on making PECS cards that may be useful and below are some options to access lots of visual symbols most you need to pay for but the sites have free resources also:

Visual objects

Using objects to support learning is always a good idea.  So for example if you are learning prepositions you can use these flashcards alongside objects like in the picture below.

prepositions
learning prepositions

For learning to read we can use picture and object matching using the Downs Ed method.

With Maths using blocks like the Mathlink cubes from Learning Resources are great visual resources.

maths visual learning
maths with mathlink cubes

I am a big fan of Orchard toys and Goula for visual educational games.

spelling game
Orchard toys Match & Spell game

A few more resources:

SEN Learning resources – visual and sensory learning designed for children who learn differently:

Check out my free resources like this Ten green bottles activity. I also have my visual cookbook available for just £2.95.

visual recipes

I hope you have found something helpful, please do share your favorite visual resources in the comments below.

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*** This post contains affiliate links, if you purchase from these links I may receive a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you and it will support this blog.***

15 Comments

  1. Kimberlie
    13th January 2021 / 8:44 pm

    As an elementary educator, so much of what you said here resonates with me. Children learn best when they can manipulate and see things before moving to abstract concepts. Having my own child has solidified these beliefs even more.

    • admin
      Author
      13th January 2021 / 9:14 pm

      Absolutely visual learning is so important for all young children.

  2. 13th January 2021 / 8:47 pm

    Fellow autism mom here! I’m amazed at the amount of resources you have here! It’s given me a ton of ideas! Thanks!

    • admin
      Author
      13th January 2021 / 9:13 pm

      Brilliant and you are very welcome, we think they are great so I am sure you will find them useful.

  3. 14th January 2021 / 3:55 am

    very interesting ! I’ve never come across an article like this …learnt quite a bit ..learning prepositions and emotion sorting activity are my favorites ! thanks for sharing :))

    • admin
      Author
      14th January 2021 / 7:02 am

      Glad to hear you learnt something
      . thanks for stopping by

    • admin
      Author
      14th January 2021 / 8:09 pm

      Thank you ❤️

  4. 14th January 2021 / 7:43 pm

    Some fantastic resources and a really interesting post. I especially like that you acknowledged the importance of clearing anxiety before even attempting to learn #KCACOLS

    • admin
      Author
      14th January 2021 / 8:08 pm

      Thanks, we learnt the hard way about making sure the anxiety is gone but seems so obvious now.

  5. 15th January 2021 / 12:26 pm

    What a fab set of resources. I’m doing KCACOLS (co hosting) and we all comment on specific posts – i’m so pleased i got this one as I’m genuinely going to share it and pin it! Such great links and info here. my son has been struggling so much with home learning. Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next time!

    • admin
      Author
      15th January 2021 / 12:30 pm

      Thank you, I love using these resoures so pleased to be sharing them hope your son gets on with some of them.

  6. 19th January 2021 / 10:43 pm

    These are lovely ideas – some great resources here 🙂 #KCACOLS

    • admin
      Author
      20th January 2021 / 10:20 am

      Thank you Hannah

  7. 22nd January 2021 / 2:18 am

    Love this post Jade, so many helpful ideas and strategies! We’re all about learning in visually clear ways too 🙂
    Thank you for sharing with #KCACOLS x

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