Impaired communication and social interaction are top deficits in people with Autism. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) makes the life challenging as people on spectrum find it difficult to perform daily functions.
People with autism spectrum disorder often find it difficult to understand even simple spoken communication. Due to their inability to communicate and understand, they have problems knowing what is or isn’t happening. They fail to understand why changes occur in their routine. Autistic people find it hard to switch from one activity to another.
People with ASD get easily frustrated and anxious as they are not understood well. Their behavior is often not like the behavior and mannerism of other people. Treatment and therapies can help reduce symptoms of ASD, but there is no cure for the condition. However, many simple solutions can turn this challenging situation.
Researchers have discovered that most autistic people understand what they see well than what they hear. Autistic are visual learners. Visual support can help them understand what they read or see. It is the reason people with ASD respond well to visual strategies.
Visual strategies use visual supports and tools that provide visual cues to help students understand better. Visual strategies help improve communication in people with ASD, prevent problems, and guide students to participate successfully at home and school.
Visual strategies work well with people with ASD!
What are visual supports?
Visual support involves communication tools such as pictures, objects, lists, words, drawings, calendars, or other items to communicate with people who have a problem understanding or using language.
The study has shown that visual supports help communicate with people with ASD.
There are two main objectives of using visual support with children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD):
- Visual supports help parents communicate better with their children.
- Visual supports are helpful for a child to communicate and interact better.
Parents and caregivers can use visual support with people with ASD of any age and gender.
Why are visual supports important?
The main challenges in people with ASD are:
- challenges in interacting socially,
- difficulty in learning or using a language,
- repetitive behaviors and limited interests
Visual support helps in all three above areas.
Firstly, autistic people find it difficult to understand social cues during their interactions with people in daily activities. Often, they fail to start a conversation and respond when others make social approaches.
Visual supports help teach social skills and help children with ASD use them in social situations.
Secondly, children with ASD have difficulty in understanding and following spoken instructions. They are unable to express their requirements.
Visuals can help the children convey their requirements thus; reduce frustration and problem behaviors resulting from challenges in communication. Visuals help in communicating positively and appropriately.
Finally, some children with ASD develop anxiety when in unfamiliar situations or new environments. Visuals can help them understand what will happen next and what they will do. It will reduce anxiousness in them. Visuals also help autistic pay attention to critical details and cope with change.
Visual supports support communication. You can use them in various environments, different locations, and in many situations. They are vital communication support for autistic people.
The common uses of visual Support are:
- To Help autistic people communicate and express their feelings
- Communicate about health and safety
- Carry out social communication
- Help process information
- To learn and use a language
- To understand and interact with the physical and social environments
- Give instructions in a better and more concrete way
- To minimize reliance on verbal prompting
Benefits of Visual Supports:
- Visual supports can be personalized
- They provide structure and routine
- They encourage and develop independence and confidence
- Improve understanding and reduce frustration and anxiety
- Help carry out positive social communication
All autistic learners can benefit from appropriate visual support strategies.
Children with autism learn in different and unusual ways. Research has shown that learning through seeing in one of the ways for many autistic children and other similar disabilities.
Visual supports help children with autism:
- To learn more quickly
- Reduce tantrum, self-injurious behavior, and aggressive behavior
- Help decrease anxiety, depression, and frustration
- Learn to adjust to new environment and changes at home/school
- Learn self dependence and complete tasks by themselves
Visual Strategies Help Children
- Understand and follow rules
- Understand instructions and guidance how and what they are supposed to do
- Help understand how to play, complete work, participate in activities
- How to move from one activity to another and change focus
Research has proved that visual strategies work.
Here are top visual strategies that help improve communication, guide students to participate successfully at home and school, and reduce challenges.
- Choice Boards
Choice boards are pictures of a wide range of preferred foods, objects, toys, or games that interests a child. Choice boards are a menu of choices for leisure activities, favorite foods, places, toys, or songs.
Choice boards help to see what is available in each environment.
Children have their preferences but may have difficulty expressing them. Seeing a visual of what is available helps the child choose as per his preference and liking.
By pointing to or touching a picture or object, the child can indicate his choice to the parents or teacher. Choice boards allow you to change and accommodate things as per their availability in specific environments. You can have some items at school while at home; there will be some other items.
Choice boards offer the following benefits:
- They can increase the focus and attention of a child to the task
- Increases participation due to a wide range of choices.
- Decrease interfering or inappropriate behavior and aggression
- Help teach acceptable and humble behavior
- Enhance interpersonal skills and improves communication
- Visual Schedules
Visual representation of activities that will happen during the day or within a task is known as a visual schedule. You can use the visual schedule for one child or a group for activities, like daily routine, dressing, school activities, game schedules, etc.
A visual schedule breaks down a task with multiple steps and ensures easy compliance. The visual schedule reduces anxiety by communicating when a particular activity will occur.
You can decide the activities that you want to picture in the schedule. Then choose those activities that will happen in a particular order. You can mix preferred activities with non-preferred ones and put visuals on the schedule board like photos, drawings, written words, etc. It should show the activities that you have identified.
The schedule can be portable, like a clipboard, or fixed to a permanent place. It should be visible to the child before beginning the first activity.
The visual schedule should continue to be visible to the child during the activities. You can brief the child before starting the visual schedule activities. Initially, you can guide the child to refer to the schedule gently and later decrease the prompt to allow him to use it independently.
- First-Then Boards
A “First-Then” board is a visual display of activities that will happen after completing a task. It is a helpful strategy. It enables the children to see what job they are completing currently and what event/job will occur next. You can attach the pictures using Velcro so that it is possible to change them when necessary.
A First-Then Board helps children with ASD to follow directions and acquire new skills. You must give children the reinforcing activity or item after the completion of “first” The child will develop trust in the board and encourage them to use it next time.
You should continue to prompt the child to complete the “first” task even if the challenging behavior occurs. Try focusing on the job rather than on challenging behavior. Providing a reinforcing activity or item is critical to completing the task.
First-Then boards are helpful for children with ASD when completing a non-preferred activity or task. They also help children that face difficulty transitioning from activity to activity or room-to-room.
First-Then boards help the child transition to an activity or location that is not preferred because the child can visually see that a preferred activity is coming next.
A First/Then board is portable. You can move it with the children as they transitions.
- Token Board
Token boards are highly motivating visuals. They specify the number of tasks a child with ASD should complete before getting a reward. The reward/reinforcement is an activity or toy that motivates the child.
The teacher or the parent places a token on the board each time the child completes the task. After completing a specified number of activities, the child receives a reward. You can use stars, checkmarks, or pictures customized to the child’s interests as rewards.
Token Boards help:
- In teaching the child with ASD to wait before receiving a reward
- motivation to complete undesired or not so-preferred tasks
- Social Stories/Narratives
Social stories help develop an appropriate social interaction, skill, or behavior in children with ASD. The stories are individualized and describe a social context relevant to the child with deficit skills.
- Provide the child with ASD with the perspective of others and appropriate responses to the situation. It helps to break down the challenging social situation.
- The story focuses on improving the child’s understanding of the social situation. The improvement often leads to a change in behavior. It helps the child to make the appropriate decision in future events of a similar type.
- Visual Setting Parameters
Setting parameters is a method of using visuals to set clear boundaries around items or activities. It teaches the child with ASD basic expected behaviors like waiting.
Visually setting parameters helps to define and communicate limits. They are a part of the activity but may seem unclear to the child.
You can use a “stop” sign to mark where to stop. Place a “not available” print/card on the computer if it is not time to use or play on the computer.
Placing or showing a “wait” card shows the significance and the need to wait if something is not available or delayed.
You can start to teach visual parameters in situations that have clear and defined parameters. Once the child understands them, you can gradually increase their use in other activities with abstract parameters.
Visual structuring of the environment parameters helps students with autism in making sense of their world.
Research has shown positive outcomes with visual support in people with ASD. They are effective in helping children follow directions and cope with switching from one activity to another. They are helpful therapies or programs focusing on children’s development and education.
It is easy to make visual supports and visual schedules. Anyone can make them because no technique, training, or qualification is required to make visual supports.