25 Reasons to Use Visual Strategies for Autism

When we use visual strategies for autism, it helps students succeed. We use visual tools to accomplish a purpose. Perhaps we use something visual to help a student understand a situation. Maybe we provide a visual prompt so a student can accomplish a task more independently. 

Think of the PURPOSE of a visual tool

Defining the student's NEEDS guides the decision about what kind of tool to use. Identifying the purpose of a visual tool helps us know how to use it. 

Is your school or home environment set up to provide the visual support your students can benefit from? 

Is your school or home environment set up to provide the visual support your students can benefit from? 

How many of these functions are accomplished in your environment with visual tools? As you look at the list, count how many ways your students currently receive visual support.

1. Establish attention 
Looking at something can help students establish attention better than just listening. Once they have focused their attention, the rest of the communication message can get in.

2. Give information 
How do students get information to answer the who, what, why, where, when questions?

3. Explain social situations 
The social world can be confusing. People are moving, changing & unpredictable. Giving social information by writing it down helps students understand.

4. Give choices 
How do students know what the options are? What is available? What is not available?

5. Give structure to the day 
Creating a schedule to tell what is happening or what is not happening. Giving students the big picture to reduce anxiety.

6. Teach routines 
Following multiple steps in a routine will be easier when the student can SEE what they are. They will learn a routine faster when they are guided with visual supports so they don't make a lot of mistakes.

7. Organize materials in the environment 
Where are the things we need? Is it clear where to put supplies away when it is clean up time?

8. Organize the space in the environment 
Can the student identify his own space to work or play or sit? Which parts of the environment can he use and which parts are "off limits?"

9. Teach new skills 
Learning to operate a new toy or piece of equipment. Learning a new task or academic skill.

10. Support transitions 
Stopping one activity to start another. Moving from 
one environment to another. Anything that involves a 
shift or change.

11. Stay on task 
Remembering what the current activity is and staying involved with it until it is completed.

12. Ignore distractions 
Helping students consciously focus their attention on desired activities or interactions.

13. Manage time 
How long is 5 minutes or one hour? How much time is there before a transition in the schedule? Time is invisible. Timers and clocks turn time into something students can SEE.

14. Communicate rules 
People presume students know the rules. That is often not true. Perhaps they don't remember. Or they don't understand. Or they get too impulsive. Etc., etc.

15. Assist students in handling change 
Preparing for something that is going to change. Preparing students when something will be different from what they normally expect can prevent lots of problems.

16. Guide self-management 
Students need to learn how to manage their behavior by making acceptable choices when they get anxious or encounter a problem.

17. Aid memory 
Remembering what to do or when to do it. Remembering what something is called or what someone's name is. (Think about how many ways you provide cues for yourself!)

18. Speed up slow thinking 
Some students have lots of information in their brains, but it takes them a very long time to access it. Visual cues can speed that process.

19. Support language retrieval 
Did you ever have an experience where you know someone's name but you just can't remember it? Or you know what something is but can't recall the word? Once you hear it or see it you instantly remember. (The older we are, the worse it becomes!) Students can experience the same challenges in remembering.

20. Provide structure 
Structure means organized and predictable. Strive for an environment that provides visual organization and information.

21. Learn vocabulary 
Create a personal dictionary with pictures and words of important vocabulary: names of people, favorite toys or videos or activities or places. Students will learn that information when they can access it over and over.

22. Communicate emotions 
Students demonstrate a variety of emotions with their 
actions. Translating those responses into pictures or 
written language gives an opportunity to explain, clarify or validate their experience.

23. Clarify verbal information 
What I understood might not be what you meant. 
Making it visual helps clarify our conversation. It 
eliminates the confusion.

24. Organize life information 
Think of phone numbers, calendars, cooking instructions, shopping lists, social security numbers, appointments, etc.

25. Review & remember 
One of the greatest benefits of making something visual is that you can keep it. Verbal language flies away. It disappears. Keeping visual information to review over and over helps students remember and understand.

Visual strategies for autism accomplish important purposes to help students succeed

Giving information to students in a concrete visual form helps them handle the many happenings during a day that can cause confusion or frustration. It gives them the structure necessary to better handle situations that are difficult for them. 

Using visual strategies provides a way for students to participate more appropriately and independently in their life activities. 

Count the ways that your students currently receive visual support consistently in their communication environments.

Did you think of any new ideas to try? How can you use visual strategies for autism to "take it up a level?"

Linda Hodgdon is a Speech-Language Pathologist and Autism Consultant who has pioneered the use of visual strategies for autism success. Learn more autism answers from Linda at https://usevisualstrategies.com/

© Copyright Linda Hodgdon

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

  1. Hi Linda
    I’m an older speech therapist who works EI from birth to 3
    Do you have some suggestions in helping young children communicate with consistency
    Parents are eagerly awaiting their child’s first words. Words are inconsistently used.
    Do you have any materials about communication for parents having young autistic children

      1. Visual strategies work for any age whether individuals are verbal or non verbal. The key is to identify their needs and develop visual supports that they understand. Yes! Adults can benefit from visual strategies. Part of the challenge is that they may not have been exposed to visual tools when they were younger. That means you might be starting from the beginning with them. It’s important to assess what visuals (photos, line drawings, etc) they understand best.

  2. Yes, this is good material I have learn that with my son I can show him a picture or hands on teaching is the best method of his learning, may have to show him more than once but after awhile he gets it.Sometimes he forgets some things but always comes back to him later, they say thats the epilepsy he has.

  3. I like the idea of helping kids with autism understand something better by using visuals. My son has struggled with autism for a while now. He learns best with some visuals so I'm hoping to find an online school that does the same and helps him learn faster.

    1. I’m so glad you found this site. Yes, visuals can help students understand better. Be sure to check out my books. They will help you find solutions for your son.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}