Summary of “How to develop and implement visual supports”

What are visual supports and who can benefit from them?

* Visual supports can be used to provide information, to teach self-help skills, to teach independent work skills, to help students understand expectations, and many other ways.

* Visual supports can be used with all students regardless of intellectual capacities or verbal abilities.


How to create visual supports

* Whenever possible, the most age appropriate representative level should be used (object level, photograph level, drawing, icon, word, written phrase/sentences)

* Must consider the size, location of usage, and color that will be most beneficial


Types of visual supports:  Visual schedules

* Visual schedules present the abstract concept of time in a concrete and manageable form.

* Visual schedules can often reduce stress, teach the concepts of time, and assist in promoting students’ understanding of change and flexibility.

* How to construct a visual schedule:

1) Determine the activities

2) Determine the appropriate level of visual representation

3) Establish a “finished” indicator

4) Decide how much information a student can handle at one time

5) Determine if the student will be involved in the daily construction of the visual schedule

6) Allow student choice when appropriate

7) Establish a schedule routine


* Types of visual schedules

1) General visual schedule- provide students with a general overview of the day’s activities

2) Minischedules- indicates the specific activities that will occur during a designated time period (for example: reading-review sight words, read story, complete worksheet).

3) Task organizers-augments minischedules by breaking down the exact steps associated with completing each activity (for example:  for “complete reading worksheet”, the task organizer schedule would provide words or symbols representing the steps—get worksheet, get pencil, put name on paper, complete worksheet, review answers, place worksheet in finished basket.

4) Calendars-visual supports that assist students in understanding the concept of time relative to organizing their lives and understanding the sequences of activities.

5) Memory aids-in this support, the materials needed for a given situation are specified.  These often appear as checklists to improve organization skills.  Can also be used as visual reminders, for example, a picture of a flushing toilet could be placed above the toilet to remind the student to flush before exiting.


Visual strategies that support behavior

* Turn taking cards

* Waiting symbols

* Making choices

* Defining rules and teaching alternate behaviors

* Consequence maps

* Visual representation of calming supports

* Transition supports (visual timer, time limit warnings, etc)

* First/then visuals


Visual supports that structure the learning environment

* Labels-mark tubs and containers with visual representations of their contents

* Boundary settings- establish a specific physical space for activities, such as, playing, reading, or cooking


Visual supports that enhance communication

* Picture card files-graphically depict different tasks to be accomplisjed during a specific period of time, such as a transition within a given activity.

* Teacher notebook-designed for use with small groups of students rather than individuals,  As the teacher provides instruction, he/she can point to the relevant symbols

* Teacher minibooks-groupings of generic directional pictures and words that the students use throughout the day (directions for lining up, waiting in the hallway, being quiet, circle time, etc)


Facilitating communication between environments

* Visual bridges- developed to support ongoing communication between home and school.

* Remnant books-appropriate for students who require tangible, hands-on support to communicate about past events (for example-if a student completed an art project, a marker can be placed in the remnant book)

Visual strategies that support social skill development

* Topic wheels-gives students a random selection of conversation topics from which to choose.  Assists in reducing perseveration

* Power cards-example:  a student with a dominant interest in Spider Man might be provided a profile and script describing how Spider Man demonstrates acceptable behavior at school.

* Social Stories-minibook that describes a social situation along with appropriate social responses.  Written for the individual and often have pictures depicting the student completing social activities correctly.

–Rachel Lacap


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