Awesome Visuals for Autism You Will Love
Special educators, parents, and speech therapists will love these free downloads of visuals for autism. We can all use some awesome visuals for autism! What is even better, you can see my tips in person.
Talking about ways to help our children with autism on Carrie Clark’s The Speechie Show was a blast! If you didn’t catch me live, you can watch the replay here. I show you some of my most useful visuals. Then I explain how to and when to use each visual.
So, if you are new to my site, welcome! And if you’ve been here for a while, I’m thrilled that you are reading my blog as a regular.
Now that you know how useful these tips are, sign up for my free Getting Started with Autism Guide below. I promise to keep your email private!
There’s also a free download of a choice board to add to your set of visuals! It will come in the follow-up newsletter once you have signed up.
Let’s Get Started
I truly believe in visuals! So here are the main tips you need to use them successfully. `
If you haven’t read the post on questions to ask yourself for problem-solving difficult behaviors, start here.
Tips for Determining Symbol Level
- When teaching a visual system, that is their new skill. Whatever you are having the child do during the instruction time should be something that is easy and already learned.
- You need to be sure that you are using the level of symbols that your student understands: objects, photos, icons or words.
- Do a trial of matching the symbol to the object. This is one way to start assessing the student’s comprehension of the symbol level. You can see pictures of this here.
- For students who use pointing boards, AAC or PECs exchanges, try having alternative symbol levels available. Then see which type they use to request. It is usually safe to assume that children will choose what they understand and are comfortable with.
- Another way is to let them request and tell them “Take it.” Did the symbol they used to request match the item they took? You know that they took what they wanted!
Where to Start
1 – Teach ‘All Done’
For students who are new to visuals, start with a visually obvious activity that shows when they are ‘finished’ or ‘all done.’ Use the symbol that matches the word you typically use.
In the photo, you can easily see when the task is all done. The characters have all gone down the slide and are out of sight.
One idea is to use work tasks, like puzzles, sorting or placing clips on cards. Students see what to do. They know the job is done when all the pieces are used up. The task disappears visually. When they are done, say and point to the ‘all done’ symbol. Then give the student a reinforcer that they like.
But how to add language-based skills into this? Try using play tasks made with a shoebox. This really helped my students develop play skills. Put the ‘all done’ symbol inside the box, where the finished pieces go, to teach the symbol in a functional task. You can see more about how to set up play skills with a shoebox in this post.
2 – Token boards
Using token boards is the next step. The Getting Started with Autism Guide has cute ones for you. Token boards show students how much work is expected and when they will be done the work.
Visuals are a great asset, but they need to be taught. They are not an automatic cure. Start with basics and expand from there.
Students need to have some symbolic communication skills for token boards. They request what they want to work for. The tokens show how many pieces of the task that they need to finish before they get their reinforcer.
If your students have limited attending skills, only use the number of tokens that they can handle successfully. Really! Even if it only one token.
This is how to start with just one token. Place all but one token in the upper picture part, leaving just one token in the last space. The student does one small part of the task. Then move the token into the picture. All done!
Then the student gets the reinforcer. And don’t forget to make the activity a simple one, even an enjoyable one! Keep it positive and work on increasing the amount of work they can complete at one time.
3 – First-then board
A First-Then board is useful when students can do a complete activity. First, they do their work, then they get their choice. Again, when first using a new visual, keep the requested work short and easy so that they can experience what the new visual means in a positive way.
Even when students are capable of using longer schedules, a First-Then board can be useful to help a student get through some hard work. We are all willing to put in more effort on a difficult task if we know that it is for a short time, followed by a rewarding break. Coffee, anyone?
4 – Visual Schedules
Visual schedules help students see what is coming next. This helps reduce anxiety since it shows them what they need to do to get their break. When students can use first/then boards with two activities in the ‘First’ section, you can start using a visual schedule.
There are generic symbol cards in the free download. However, you may do better by introducing a visual schedule with photos of familiar activities. The activities should be ones your student can easily do.
For example, the schedule might show puzzles, bubbles, an activity the student likes, book, play dough, and the requested reinforcer. To learn the schedule, the activities are easy and the breaks are frequent.
Having the all done pocket on a schedule is great. Students complete each part of the work, then check their schedule. They place the completed activity in the pocket. Done= out of sight! Read more in this post.
If you just place a schedule on the wall and don’t teach its meaning, it is just a piece of paper on the wall! The same goes for all of the visual supports that can be so helpful. So be sure to take the time to make them meaningful for your students. Don’t put them out and expect visual supports to be miracle cures that work immediately.
Now you are ready to start effectively using these awesome visuals. Did you get your free Getting Started with Autism Guide?