Visual Thinking Strategies – then and now

Visual Strategies is having a birthday!
I shared a brief story about that in my last email.

If you didn’t see the post, go HERE to check it out.

A little bit of history . . .

Before I wrote the book Visual Strategies for Improving Communication, the 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 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 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. She used lots of Post-It notes.)

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

Julia and I have remained "penpals" to share ideas over the years.

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

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 changes 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 the CORE information in that original Visual Strategies book is definitely still relevant today.

  • 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 help students with both receptive and expressive communication.
  • 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 updated, 3rd Edition of Visual Strategies for Improving Communication will be available soon.

P.S. One more thing . . . Interesting FACT . . .
Temple Grandin's book THINKING IN PICTURES was published same year as Visual Strategies for Improving Communication.

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