Autism Professional Development

I love to do visual strategies workshops for autism professional development.

One of the “blessings” of Covid is that most of us have learned to use Zoom very effectively. It's become a useful tool. (I just did a program for some educators in Singpore recently and I didn't need to fly there to do it!)

This week I presented a program for some educators in the midwest, including many who serve as autism consultants across their state.

Every program I do is packed with a combination of “classics” and "seasoned" with new understandings about this population of students.

Before I wrote the book Visual Strategies for Improving Communication, the educational program that I was working in as a Speech Therapist was starting to become well known because we were doing something that was very unusual.

We used visual strategies with our autistic students.

Very few people had even heard of visual strategies, so I started speaking at a lot of conferences and doing in-service training in school districts around my state of Michigan.

Then I wrote the Visual Strategies book . . .

When the book was published, it started a “whirlwind” of activity. My speaking activities spread much farther than the borders of Michigan.

I just found this evaluation comment from Julia who was in one of my first workshops in Texas.

I was at one of your first workshops in Region 10.

You came by my chair and saw your book open in front of me…all “buggared up” and said that was the WORST copy you had ever seen!!!! We both laughed.

(See the photo above of Julia’s sticky notes. She definitely proves how valuable the visuals are for the adults, not just the students.)

I was that SLP who graduated with a degree basically in “articulation.” We called it “R…S….L….TH….” therapy!!!!

I was one who responded to the call of “visuals” through your dynamic and successful philosophy.

What would my “work life” have been without that book???? Unsuccessful??? Dull??? Depressing???

Yes. Yes. Yes.

I was the one who requested that Region 10 give your book to all the people who came to our visual strategy workshops.

I even developed a “TOP TEN PAGES” list that I put in the front of every book.

I made them promise to look at the “TOP TEN PAGES” list …. I knew reading ANY 5 of those pages would guarantee MORE reading.

Here are my top 10 pages: pp. 12, 15, 30, 44, 70, 83, 94, 104, 162, 208
Julia Ringler

(If you are an SLP, the “R_S_L_TH therapy comment will make more sense).

Autism change in routine

The whole concept of visual strategies was a game changer for Speech Pathologists. It totally altered the way teachers set up their classroom environments for autistic students (and lots of other students, too). And visuals changed communication learning for students.

This book has been used as a “teaching tool” to help school staffs and parents understand autism in a different way.

The ideas it presents are simple but profound.

Visual Strategies in 2024

A few things have changed since 1995. Sometimes it’s terminology. For example, the word neurodivergent. In 1995, we knew these students learned differently. That is the basis for using visual supports. We just didn’t call it neurodiversity back then.

Child with autism VS autistic child is another example of terminology that has morphed over the years.

But CORE information in that original Visual Strategies book is definitely still relevant today. For example:

  • The majority of these student understand what they SEE better than what they HEAR.
  • Visual strategies help students understand better than just verbal language.
  • Students benefit from visual supports to help them establish attention.
  • Visuals change the communication behavior of the communication partners, not just the students.
  • ALL communication partners need to understand the power of visual tools and use them to enhance communication environments.
  • Visual strategies are more than just a schedule.
  • The topics that came up in this week’s program included:

    • How to advocate for continuing visual strategies and supports in High School and into adulthood.
    • How (invisible) memories affect behavior and how visuals can help.
    • Looking at a challenge or situation from the student's perspective.
    • Assisting parents with using visuals for life outside of the school setting.
    • What neurodiversity means and how to help communication partners better understand the learning needs of these neurodiverse students who are visual learners living in an auditory world.

    What are YOUR autism needs?

    Schedule one of my autism professional development Visual Strategies programs for your school or organization. I’d love to work with you to bring up-to-date info and support to your staff and the parents of your students.

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