The power of Visuals

Speech Pathologists are always suggesting visuals and there are some very good reasons for them. Children with difficulty understanding or using language really benefit from the added support of visuals to assist with changes to routine, to reduce anxiety and the load on listening. It can also do wonders for children who are displaying any behavioural difficulties - this may be a sign that they are having some trouble comprehending language so to have something that is concrete and accessible all the time can help significantly. Children with Autism in particular thrive with a full visual set up in the home environment. 

Next time you are at your child's daycare or preschool, have a look around and you will notice an abundance of visuals. It may be to assist children in the steps for going to the toilet or washing their hands or to show them about the activities for the day. Story lessons may also be aided with visuals. 

There are many types of visuals but the TOP THREE you could use in your home today include:

Visual Timetables 
These are designed around the events or activities of the day. There are several ways you can set these up and you can tailor it to your family life. They don’t need to include every little detail just start with the key events and break your day up into morning, afternoon and night. This will also assist their learning of time concepts. Try to include 3 events for each part of the day - e.g morning - dress, breakfast, drive to preschool.

Set up the timetable each night before you go to sleep and have it ready for your child to refer to in the morning. You can point out different parts of the routine and discuss each section as you reach that part of the day. You don’t have to do it all at once! 

Making these visuals doesn’t have to be a huge task! We suggest getting a small whiteboard so that you can adapt the items and set up at any time… and even if you’re drawings skills aren’t great, a simple line drawing usually can make do. If that seems daunting, you can download our free visual timetable cards. Cut them out, then add magnets or velcro to use them on your fridge or whiteboard.

Visual timetable

Visual Routines / Schedules 

These visuals are based more around a specific daily routine, like washing your hands, going to the toilet, blowing your nose and getting dressed. You can make a step by step visual of the sequence of parts of the routine.

Again, start off with 3 parts and add in more as you go. You will still need to explain the visual and model the desired action to begin with, but over time you can slowly just direct them to follow the steps themselves. Having it there will reduce the need to constantly say  “remember to ______” or “have you_____ ?”.

Visual routine, hand washing

Social Stories
These are especially handy if your child has difficulty with certain ‘not so pleasant’ experiences we all have to go through e.g a trip to the dentist or doctor or an upcoming event.
A social story is a positive story tailored to a social situation. Basic principles to follow:
  • The story is told alongside images and in first person (I / we)
  • The story should feature your child as the character (i.e. ‘you will____’ or ‘we will____’)
  • Focus the story around what to expect at each step of the way
  • Include information about what you should/could do or say in those situations
  • Don’t focus on what not to do or highlight bad behaviour  e.g. instead of the negative ‘we don’t hit or bite’ you could focus on the positive 'we share our toys by giving others a turn'
We have a whole Pinterest board dedicated to Visual timetables, routines and Social Stories, check it out for inspiration!

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