Visuals? We use them daily! Visuals are on labels, road signs, agendas, calendars, templates, photographs, objects or markers representing something of significance. To a greater extent, we see or 'picture' things, situations and past events, in our minds.
T. Peeters (1997) summarized nine benefits of using visual systems for individuals with an ASD. These benefits are:
Makes abstract concepts more concrete
Communicates things that cannot otherwise be understood.
Helps individuals cope and prepare for changes.
Reduces failures and behavioral problems.
Reduces stereotyped behaviors and therefore increases socialization.
Reduces dependency on specific primary care individuals and decreases anxiety when staff or environmental changes occur.
Helps autistic individuals (*or individuals with autism) understand and manage the concept of time.
(*My comment in parentheses)
Linda Hodgdon (1995) is another reference regarding visual supports. She encourages teachers to come up with different ways to use visual supports for instructional purposes. She continues and explains how visual supports also assist students by providing information, clarifying directions, locating destinations, making choices and organizing the environment.
Types & Examples of Visual Supports
Mesibov, Shea, and Schopler (authors of The TEACCH Approach to Autism Spectrum Disorders) stressed the importance of using three categories of visual information to increase meaning and attention to tasks.
These categories are: Visual Instructions, Visual Organization and Visual Clarity
Types of Visuals
Objects, parts of a whole representation of the task
Pictures of objects, people, places, and actions. Cartoon or photographs of objects, people, places, and actions.
Line drawings and stick figures
Variety of Visuals: Examples
Cue cards (to prompt)
Written scripts of what to say
Social narrative of what to do
Map of where to go
Computer icons, pictures and words
Model behavior (another individual demonstrates the specific behavior/task)
Video-models (of self, peers, or others performing task)
Finished products as examples
Reminders on 'Post-its'
Jigs or templates
PDAs, iPads, iTouch, iPhones
Visual work system
Written and/or pictured instructions, choices, etc.
Filing systems: folders, categories, etc.
Legend on charts, maps, etc.
Arrows for direction and placement
Formats of presentation or material
'To Do' lists
Token economy chart, menu of tasks/items to earn, token board, and tokens
Partitions, workstations, room dividers
Posted work, class, or family schedules
Checklist of classroom/job/relationship expectations
Applications on phones
Lights: flashing yellow lights (school zones), traffic lights, emergency vehicles, fire drills, etc.
'How to' videos
Sequenced pictures or tasks to follow
Tape defining boundaries
Partition or room divider
Carpet and furniture as visual boundaries
Table or columns
Label on or above objects, task areas, etc.
A handful of references: Visual Supports: Hodgdon, L.A. (1999 & 1995); Rao, S.M. & Gagie, B., (2006); Dettmer, S., Myles, B., & Gantz, J. (2000); Kunda, M. & Goel, A.K., (2008); L.C. & Gast, D. L. (2000), Krantz, P.J., McDuff, M.T., & McClannahan, L.E. (1993) ; www.nationalautismcenter.org/affiliates/ (National Standards Project, 2009); Peeters, T. (1997) Autism: From Theoretical Understanding to Educational Intervention. San Diego, CA: Singular Pub. Group; Martin & Pear, (2002); Visual Supports For People With Autism: A Guide For Parents And Professionals - By Marlene J. Cohen & Donna L. Sloan (2007)