Visual Strategies (To Help with Understanding)

Visuals can also be used in a variety of ways to help kids and youth understand what is happening around them.  

A visual schedule represents each activity in the child/youth’s day using objects, photographs, or pictures as tangible symbols. The type of symbols is dependent on the individual’s ability to identify the symbol. The symbol needs to be one that the individual will be able to associate with the intended message. A visual schedule can also be helpful for breaking down a task that has multiple steps to ensure teaching of those steps. It is also helpful in decreasing anxiety and rigidity surrounding transitions by communicating when certain activities will occur throughout the day or part of the day.

A first-then board is a visual display of something that the child prefers that will happen after completing a task that is less preferred. A first-then board is helpful in teaching kids and youth to follow directions and learn new skills. It motivates them to do activities that they do not like and clarifies when they can do what they like.

A communication ring is a collection of symbols used to support understanding. They are used to give information, communicate rules, and support receptive communication.

A Social Story describes a situation, skill, or concept in terms of relevant social cues, perspectives and common responses in a specifically defined style and format. The goal of a Social Story is to share accurate social information in a patient and reassuring manner that is easily understood by its audience. Half of all Social Stories developed should affirm something that an individual does well. Although the goal of a Story should never be to change the individual’s behavior, that individual’s improved understanding of events and expectations may lead to more effective responses.

Natural gestures are things we all do to help our communication. We all tend to use them such as when we shrug our shoulders to say “I don’t know”, or thumbs up to say “Good work”. They are also a useful means of communication for kids and youth who have difficulty speaking.  Most people understand what pointing and gestures mean.

The following are some resources to get started with visual strategies: