I cannot express enough how much difference visuals make for young children and those with communication difficulties. The majority of people find visual information easier to understand. I wish I had put more emphasis on visuals earlier with my kids. My non-verbal 6 year old is particularly reliant on visuals for comprehension. He also has an amazing visual memory.
Our home is full of visual aids from schedules and instructions to communication methods.
My son needs time to process visuals so having them accessible and around for him to use when he needs is really important.
So little of our communication is the language that we use. For example my son will know it is time to go out as soon as he sees me start to pack up our bag, or that it is dinner time when I lay the table. Over time I have found that the visuals which are created with my kids in mind are always the most effective. Don’t get me wrong we use lots of pre-prepared visuals but for the ones we use regularly we have had to adapt to suit our needs.
I am working on my mum (an artist) to do more visuals we can share, you will find some over in my free resources section.
Using visual aids
Visual aids can be used for many different reasons like now and next boards, schedules, routines and choice boards.
There are different types of visual you can use like objects, photos, symbols or videos. Visuals are a great support for teaching.
Visuals are also very useful when preparing for trips, days out or appointments. All businesses should think about how they can support their customers on the autistic spectrum.
I also have a visual cookbook available.
Social stories are a great way to explain something to a child and they can easily be tailored to your needs. We have found them very useful for preparing for things like haircuts and flights.
Picture Exchange Communication System / PECS®
PECS® is an alternative method of communication that we use with my son. It has made a huge difference for us. Using the Picture Exchange Communication method gives my non-verbal son a voice, he can tell me what he needs, make choices and comment on things.
If your child is struggling with functional communication it is well worth looking at PECS.
I would also recommend looking at the following companies who provide symbol systems. They also have some free visuals to download on their websites:
- Boardmaker – https://goboardmaker.com/
- Widget online – https://www.widgit.com/
- PECS UK – https://pecs-unitedkingdom.com/
Using visual reward systems can be a great way to help motivate some children. It is also helpful to keep visual reminders up around the home for example about washing hands.
Use visuals to support learning for example with emotional recognition.
Books are another great visual, picture books are a very good way to help cement the meaning of language. At first I struggled to get my son to sit and look at books with me, luckily we have found lots of ways to enjoy books together since. There are some fantastic children’s books for really visual kids and I have included a section on them in my top 100 books for under 5s.
Attention Autism is a really visual activity, it is a great way to support a child visually who is struggling with attention and communication. The stages are designed to be visually stimulation which is brilliant for many kids on the spectrum. Both my kids are always in awe of the stage 2 attention builders.
Think about the games that you play, can they be understood visually? For example Catch It from Goula needs no verbal explanation. Another fantastic game that plays to visual strengths is Seekers a magnetic scavenger hunt.
You will find a variety of visual aids over on my free resources page: