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Visual Supports

Tip of the Week: Visual Supports

Many individuals with Autism have difficulty with understanding and using language to communicate. Visual supports can help convey meaning and information in a simpler form. Visual supports can include pictures, drawings, objects, or words, whichever way a person learns best!

Visual supports can be used in many ways to help both the individual with Autism and their parents and caregivers. They can be used to help the individual express their wants and needs, give clear expectations or instructions, promote independence and help prepare someone for changes in routines or big events. Using visual supports can help to decrease problem behavior by supporting receptive language comprehension and expression.

Common visual supports used by individuals with Autism

Visual Schedule – Visual schedules can be used to for activities or tasks that are completed in a specific sequence. You can use pictures or words (or a combination of both!) to represent the activities and order them from first to last. Once each task is completed – you remove the picture/icon and start the next task! They are a great tool to provide a clear sequence and expectation to follow for your child. Visual schedules can be used for bathroom routines, socialization opportunities, work or across the entire day – the possibilities are endless!

First Then Boards – A First Then board is a simpler form of a visual schedule with only 2 activities. The first activity should be a less preferred activity and the second activity should be a preferred activity (think something fun and reinforcing). Through this visual support, your child learns the contingency that first I do something hard/something I don’t like to then earn a break or something fun!​

Choice Boards – Choice boards are a great resource to give some control and independence to your child. You can use pictures, object or words to represent their choices. You can have your child choose the order of activities they want to complete, what reinforcer they want to work for at the end of a hard task or a specific video they want to watch on the computer. Giving these choices in a way that your child can process can help to decrease problem behaviors by helping them to express and advocate for themselves!

Token Boards – Token boards are another great way to show your child clear expectations. You can use any visual as a token – a penny, a picture of your child’s favorite character or a check mark. Tokens are used to help the child understand what behaviors or answers are correct and show a visual representation of how much more work they need to do to get a break. You can use a token board in conjunction with a choice board – have your child choose an icon of what they want to work for and put it on the token board for them to see.​

Social Story – A social story is used to communicate information about a specific topic using pictures and words. These stories can help ease anxiety and can be individualized to meet the specific needs of the individual. Social stories can be used to prepare your child for changes in a routine, upcoming doctor’s visits, vacations, or can be used to helpbreak down and teach skills before practicing in real life.