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.
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.
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 when looking at emotional recognition is the emotion sorting activity.
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.
- The Gruffalo website – activities
- Axel Scheffler colouring in sheets
- Mike Brownlow (Ten Little..) activities
- Richard Scarry activities
- Peppa Pig activity packs
- CBeebies has lots of great online activities but there are some colouring sheets and other printables
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:
- PECS UK have pics for pecs which we use but they also have some free materials available which are great to do seasonal activities.
- Do 2 Learn
- Widget- has lots of symbol resource packs many are free but some have a charge but this is clearly labelled
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.
For learning to read we can use picture and object matching using the Downs Ed method.
A few more resources:
SEN Learning resources – visual and sensory learning designed for children who learn differently:
- Autism West Midlands Visual Resources guide
- Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment Thematic Units for sensory curriculum
- SEN Resources Blog
- Empowering little minds
Check out my free resources like this Ten green bottles activity. I also have my visual cookbook available for just £2.95.
I hope you have found something helpful, please do share your favorite visual resources in the comments below.