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!

Enhancing Learning Opportunities: Bath Time

A neuro-typical toddler is learning from his/her environment all day, every day.  At Spectrum Autism Services, LLC. our goal is to ensure that the same can be said for even our earliest learners with ASD.  It is our belief that teaching children to learn and interact with others in their natural environment (home, grocery store, park, library, grocery store, doctor’s office, etc.) is the key to maximizing their success.  As a result, we have created this list of tips for parents to use during bath-time

Tips for making the most of bath-time

  • Stay in your child’s attention spotlight aka position yourself so that you are face to face and at the same level as your little one. Yes…this means the floor : )  This will allow you to capture eye contact and easily participate in your child’s play. (Life hack: get a kneeling mat, your knees/bottom will thank you)
  • Encourage the development of independent life skills.  A typical toddler will often yell “My turn” or “I do” when parents are providing more help than they need.  Children with ASD often need our help learning to perform these tasks independently. When your child is ready to get in the bath provide support but encourage your child to begin undressing/dressing independently.  It may be helpful to partially remove his/her shirt initially and let them attempt to take it the rest of the way off to avoid frustration and make sure the child is successful.  You can also encourage independence by having your child participate in washing himself/herself with soap/bubbles and a washcloth.

Bath-time is a great time to sing/teach sensory social songs with finger movements.  Some of our favorites include:

    1. Itsy Bitsy Spider
    2. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
    3. Five Little Monkeys
    4. I’m a Little Tea Pot
    5. Wheels on the Bus
  • Imitation is one of the most important skills to teach a child with ASD.  Encourage the development of this skill by imitating your child actions both with and without toys.  Don’t forget to praise his efforts to imitate you as well. Encourage speech by labeling toys in the bath tub and the actions of your water baby : )  Use the 1 up rule (if the child is nonverbal label items/actions with one word, if the child is regularly using single words use 2 words to label items/actions, and so on. When possible limit the number of people in the bathroom to you and your child.  This will allow you both to focus on your interactions with each other free of distractions.
  • Bathing is an enjoyable experience for many children.  Capitalize on this! Laughs and smiles are great signs that your child is having fun and realizing what a great playmate (read: teacher) you are!
  • It is never too early to teach cleaning up. Yes… we are moms too : )  When you are letting the water out (or before if water going down a drain scares your little one) have him/her help place bath toys in a bath tub storage basket.  You can also have him/her put his/her clothes in the hamper.