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Guidelines for Making Effective Visual Supports


Visual supports are helpful for processing information, understanding and using language, and interacting with their physical and social environments.

Guidelines for Making Effective Visual Supports

Visual supports are pictures or other visual items used to communicate with a child who has difficulty understanding or using language. They are also used to help children with ASD to make choices with the use of choice boards, to provide structure and routine with the use of visual schedules or reward charts and to enhance understanding by illustrating social stories.


Visual supports make use of symbols, photographs, images, drawings, written words and objects to convey information. Research has shown that visual supports work well as a way to communicate. Children with autism may have problems focusing and comprehending what they hear. Visual supports give children visual information that they can refer to as often as they want, which is helpful in reducing feelings of anxiety or rigidity when they know what is happening next. Visual supports are also helpful for processing information, understanding and using language, and interacting with their physical and social environments. This article will share some guidelines for making effective visual supports for your children.


1. Present visuals from left to right.

Present visuals from left to right. Horizontal orientation prepares the child for reading in the future. For children who can read, adding written texts to visuals such as photographs or pictures can promote reading while ensuring that everyone interacting with the child uses the same language or word for the particular item, ensuring consistency. Do make sure that the texts provided are easy to read and have consistent fonts and sizes.


2. Prepare safe and sturdy visuals

Ensure that visual supports are sturdy, durable and easy to handle by printing them on cardstock or laminating them. This way, they will remain clear for children and can be used over a period of time. Moreover, ensure that the edges of visual supports are smoothed out to ensure that children will not get scratched or cut by sharp edges.


3. Take clear photos

Place the item or object against a solid and contrasting background when taking photos to be used for your visual supports. This ensures that the children can see what the item or object is and will be less likely to be distracted by anything else in the background. Moreover, try to take photographs from the child’s perspective as it helps with recognition.


4. Use simple and consistent visuals

Make sure that your visuals are simple, with no extra unnecessary details. For example, when conveying “ball”, choose a picture with just a ball instead of a picture of multiple different types of balls. Being consistent with the kind of visuals used (e.g. photographs, line drawings, etc.) also makes it easier for your child to understand the visual supports.


5. Make use of other tools to upgrade your visual supports

Try to be creative with how you present your visual supports – for example, using velcro strip for each item so that they can be interchangeable with one another, making use of metal rings for cue cards or having a file for your child where you store different types of visual supports that they frequently use so that you can bring them around easily.


6. Look for online resources

There are many free online resources and examples of different types of visual supports used for children with autism. When unsure or stuck, do take some time to look through these and gain inspiration from others to improve and create effective visual supports for your children.


Conclusion

Making effective visual supports is not as difficult as it may seem. With these simple guidelines, you will be able to whip up a few of those in no time and help your child with ASD communicate and manage everyday activities in positive ways!


Written by: Hayley


References

Ganz, J.B. (2007). Using visual script interventions to address communication skills. Teaching Exceptional Children, 40(2), 54-58. https://doi.org/10.1177/004005990704000207.


Ganz, J.B., & Flores, M.M. (2010). Supporting the play of preschoolers with autism spectrum disorders: Implementation of visual scripts. Young Exceptional Children, 13(2), 58-70. https://doi.org/10.1177/1096250609351795.


Gerhardt, P, Cohen, M. (2014) Visual supports for people with autism: a guide for parents and professionals. Woodbine House  


Loring, W. and Hamilton, M., n.d. Visual Supports and Autism. Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network.


National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). (2013). Autism spectrum disorder in under 19s: Support and management. NICE. Retrieved 23 May 2022 from https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg170/chapter/recommendations.


Prior, M., Roberts, J.M.A., Rodger, S., Williams, K., Dodd, S., Ridley, G., & Sutherland, R. (2011). A review of the research to identify the most effective models of practice in early intervention for children with autism spectrum disorders. Australian Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. Retrieved 23 May 2022 from https://www.dss.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/10_2014/review_of_the_research_report_2011_0.pdf.


The Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning, n.d. Tips and Ideas for Making Visuals to Support Young Children with Challenging Behavior.



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