I write a lot about using visual strategies for autism. But it’s important to remember that lots of people benefit from using many kinds of visual supports.
Do you use a day planner or a calendar or write notes to yourself to help you remember? Then you use visual strategies.
All students can benefit from having visual supports to help them remember and understand. But using visual supports can be particularly helpful for students with special learning difficulties.
Why use visuals?
It’s important to realize that visual strategies are used to help students UNDERSTAND better. They help students understand what we are telling them. They help students comprehend more about what is happening in their lives. Visual strategies provide a way to help with memory and organizing thinking.
Visuals also help children EXPRESS themselves better. They help children who talk. They help children who don’t talk yet. The visuals have a way of supporting the child to help them get their wants and needs met more efficiently. Visuals are often a “bridge” to more spoken language.
And one more “unexpected bonus,” is that visuals change the behavior of the communication partner (ie. parents or teachers). Using visual supports reminds the communication partner to get the child’s attention before communicating to them. Visuals add clarity to the communication message.
With the use of visual supports, many students are able to demonstrate more appropriate behavior and manage social situations in their lives. They are able to become more engaged in their communication opportunities.
Visual are more than a schedule
The visual schedule is probably the most commonly used visual tool. But it’s just one tool in a whole toolbox of possibilites. It’s important to recognize that there are many, many ways that visual supports can be used beyond the schedule.
Visual strategies are exceptionally helpful for students with communication or behavior or learning challenges or other special needs, including those with:
The most common myth about visual strategies
Sometimes people fear that using visuals will prevent a child from talking. NOT TRUE! If anything, they help a student develop his/her speaking ability more efficiently.
Remember, communication is not just talking. Its a whole system of "invisible skills" that benefit from the visual supports.
Visuals provide a bonus
The good thing about using visual tools is that they are universal. They work well for everyone. They are especially effective in situations where there are challenges with bi-lingual or multi-lingual communication.
Visual strategies work better than sign language for most situations.
When children are showing some speech delay, it's common to introduce a few signs to help their communication.
That is a technique that can work. (I did that with my own granddaughter. Her speech hadn't developed enough to communicate her strong desires and a few manual signs helped bridge that gap.)
The problem is that most communication partners don't know sign language. That limits its use.
(If a child has hearing difficulties or will live in an environment where sign language is a primary form of communication, that is a different situation that requires a different approach).
Visuals won't "hurt" anyone
The good news is that visual supports can help any child. Very young children can benefit. School age kids are helped. Even adults live their lives more confidently with various kinds of visual supports.
Learning WHY to use visual supports, HOW they will help a child and WHAT visuals an individual child will benefit from are important steps in helping them build their communication abilities.
I write a lot about visuals for autism, but it's important to consider visuals for all students.
The book Visual Strategies for Improving Communication is a "classic" that needs to be a resource on your bookshelf!