Using Visual Aids for Your Child with ASD

Providing visual supports can be an effective strategy for easing the anxiety that may be caused by daily activities and changes in routine for your loved one with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Children with ASD may not always grasp social expectations or fully comprehend spoken directions. Visual cues give children with ASD a visible calendar of events and a visible action to pair with a direction. Visuals can help parents better communicate and can often minimize frustrations of both the parent and child.

Labels & One Step Directions

The keyring with cards below is a great example of a portable visual that can be used to provide a variety of simple directions or choices. Providing an image that describes an action can help your child better understand the parent’s expectation of them. It also acts as a differentiated method of teaching your child seeing as verbal directions are not always comprehended.

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Posting visuals with adhesive around the home is a great way to label items. It can also be done to assist your child in learning names for items.

A “Stop” sign on the front door and other exit areas can also assist your child with better understanding their parameters. Make sure to always praise your child when they demonstrate that they have listened to these boundaries.

You can also use the “Stop” visual when leaving a playground or ending another activity. This way, once the action is initially taught, it can be applied to other activities and the action will be better understood when transferred to different environments.

First –> Then Visuals

To better help your child understand a sequence of events, for instance, eating lunch before play time, you can create a “First-Then” card. These cards demonstrate at least two visuals with an event that happens first, and then the event that follows.

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This is a great idea if your child struggles with motivation to complete a specific task, like eating. It also helps your child begin learning multi-step directions. When presenting the visual to your child, provide simple directions of “first you will eat lunch, then we will go to the playground.”

In order for this process and visual to be successful, it is important to provide the more rewarding activity following the first, less desirable task. It is important to also always follow through with the cards, or else your child may not trust that it will happen the next time.

Multi-Step Visuals

This visual provides a sequence of steps when performing an activity. This assists children with understanding the order of events, and reminding them to perform each individual task. We often create these for a multi-step task like potty time.

This potty chart was created by one of our RBTs for a Spectrum Autism Services client.

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Daily Calendar

Oftentimes children with ASD experience anxiety about what activities are to come during the day. A great way to combat this emotional upheaval is through a visual daily calendar of events.  

In our command center created for a client (showed above), our RBT included a daily schedule, the time at which that activity would begin, screen time reinforcement, a behavior modification tracking system, and cute little holders for additional tools. By generating an organizational system that works for your child, they can feel better prepared to approach their day.

Creating a command center is a great idea, but you can also begin with a smaller task of making a simple daily calendar.

Visuals calendars are a great way to begin implementing routines, rules, and order of events.

We hope you find this helpful! If you have any additional comments or questions, feel free to ask below!

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