Visual supports are an evidenced-based practice for individuals with autism, language delays, developmental delays, auditory processing disorders, learning disabilities, ADD, and other communication disorders. helps all learners. Visuals serve multiple purposes. It’s a tool that supports communication and behavior, increases access to the curriculum, and increases successful participation in and completion of curriculum requirements.
WHAT ARE VISUALS? In contrast to auditory input, visuals are concrete, meaningful, static, and permanent.
Body movements, gestures, facial expressions.
Environmental cues (visual boundaries, signs, labels)
Concrete tools to give information
WHO CAN BENEFIT FROM VISUAL SUPPORTS?
Everyone benefits: the teacher, the individual student, and the whole class. Imagine a classroom where communication is clearer, instruction is efficient and effective, and the social emotional atmosphere is calmer, positive, and supportive.
WHY USE VISUAL SUPPORTS?
Visuals provide information that doesn’t “disappear” like verbal or auditory information, (even sign language can be transient).
Allows for time to process information and supports comprehension.
Structures the environment, establishes expectations.
Creates organizational tools.
Increases participation and independence.
Makes abstract concepts a bit concrete.
Accommodates for challenges with language, attention, memory.
Supports behavior – student learns how to behave.
Visual schedules reduce anxiety; student knows what to expect.
Helps with current activity and next activity; transitions (shift attention to next activity). What is going to happen, when it is going to happen, what is the sequence of events, what do students need, where he/she is going, what are the choices, what is changing, who is coming, how long will an activity last, when he/she gets a break, when is the preferred activity.
Makes time visual and concrete
Supports short attention span (how long, how many more?)
Reduces anxiety, provides predictability
WHAT CAN VISUAL SUPPORTS BE USED FOR?
Visuals are tools to
Organize and structure the environment
Establish expectations, rules, routines
Provide directions, explicit instructions
Facilitate communication, social interaction
Modify assignments (highlight, underline, arrows)
Give information on who what when why how
Examples – Types of Visual Strategies
Schedules- classroom and individual
Classroom/individual rules & routines
Task analysis tool to teach a skill or routine
Tools to teach and support behavior
Videos to teach social, communication, behavior
Comic strip conversations
Visuals support learning, language, communication, and behavior in an inclusive environment. It increases independence and participation. Think visual when teaching. Explore the resources listed below. Incorporating visual strategies in your teaching will become a natural part of your repertoire. It benefits all.
Virginia Commonwealth University = How to Videos
How to: Visual Supports
You can find the whole How To videos here:
Autism Focused Intervention Resources and Modules. Training modules for evidence-based practices:
Visual Schedules: Do2Learn is overall a great resource.
5. Resource for visual supports to search and print out:
This website has links to other resources. Visual Supports Learning Links and Templates - Center for Community Inclusion and Disability Studies - University of Maine (umaine.edu)
PowerPoint with examples: Visual-Supports-for-Children-with-ASD.pptx.pdf (unm.edu)
BOOKS (some links are to Abebooks.com, used books at a reduced price)
Everyday Education: Visual Support for Children with Autism by Pernille Dyrbjerg & Maria Vedel, 2007.
Visual Strategies for Improving Communication by Linda A. Hodgdon, 2011.
Visual Supports for People With Autism: A Guide for Parents and Professionals (Topics in Autism) by Marlene J. Cohen & Peter F. Gerhardt, 2016.
Visual Thinking Strategies for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders - The Language Of Pictures by Carole Kaulitz, Mabel Brown, Ellyn Lucas Arwood, 2009.
Colleen N. Fay, M.S.
Montana Autism Education Project