Visual tools are important in everyday life. We all use them and rely on them for information. Whether it is a STOP sign, a map, a flyer, your calendar or To Do list, we all use visual tools in our lives.
When working with children that have been diagnosed with autism, who have communication challenges, or who may not be verbal, visual aids are a highly effective form of communication. They are also a great tool when applying ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) interventions at home. Here are some common ways to provide information using visual tools.
- Feel comfortable with changing situations– when you create a schedule for your child with autism, be sure to leave room for changes. This teaches your child more flexibility and less rigidity. Use pictures and Velcro so that you can remove things you didn’t have time to do, or move things around when the order of your day changes. If you don’t have pictures, simply use a piece of paper and a pencil. Show your child when you erase things or cross things out. These are also great tools to use when applying the principles of ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) therapy in your home. Preparing your child for shifts and changes in their schedule will prevent anxiety, tantrums and other problem behaviors.
- Recognizing Locations and People – One of the other tools used in ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) therapy that works very well is showing your child pictures of where you’re going, what you are going to be doing, and who you may see when you are there. Let them become familiar with locations so they know what to expect. All of this helps your child feel comfortable and prepared. It’s great to bring your camera with you to places you visit frequently (like the park, a restaurant, a friend or family member’s house). Taking snap shots of these locations, instead of using generic pictures, will really prepare your child for what to expect.
- Give Choices – Showing your child with autism, images of games, clothes, food etc. and letting your child choose what they want to play with, wear, or eat, allows them to feel more in control. The experts at Beautiful Minds Center recommend this technique and find that images make it easier for children diagnosed with autism to make choices because many of the are more susceptible to visual cues.
- Manage Time – Creating a calendar or time schedule shows your child what time and when they will be working on preferred activities and non-preferred activities and how much more time they have before they need to transition to the next activity. Many of the therapists at Beautiful Minds Center will use timers and clocks at their sessions. This helps the child they are working with understand the difference between how long 1 minute is and how long 5 minutes is and are great visual tools to use during times of transition.
- Communicate Rules – Visual charts with house rules, rules for playing outside, and rules for outings in the neighborhood are great tools to teach your child what they are allowed, and what they are not allowed to do. Having them posted in visible areas around the house are also great reminders.
Whether you are in session with a therapist conducting ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) therapy or working with your child on assigned interventions, giving information through visual aids help your child with autism process things in a ways that cause less confusion and frustration then verbal cues might. Actually seeing something through images or in writing gives them the structure necessary to better handle any given situation.