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Visual Cues: They Are Not Just for Autism

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Now is the time of year when things get crazy.  Everyone, teachers and students are ready for a break.  I’m ready for a break….aren’t you?  And when that happens, we often find that systems that have been in place all year get lax because the lesson plan changes a bit to try to keep kids antsy for the holidays engaged.  Rae did a great post recently on A Special Sparkle on the need to keep routines going.  I want to take some time to remind all of us that the supports we have had in place for students during the year still need to be in place when things get changed up.  In fact, in the holiday hubbub I would say we need more visual supports, not less.

One of the issues I run into frequently is staff and families who think their student/child doesn’t/shouldn’t need/use visual supports.  They think it makes them look different.  It takes time to make them and organize them and assure we have them with us.  It takes planning to make sure we have the supports in place for an activity.  The student is verbal so he doesn’t need visuals.  And there are many other reasons.  I’ve talked in the past about why I think visual supports are important.  But today I wanted to give those of you who may feel like you are swimming upstream at this time of year in convincing everyone that visual supports are important.  The strategy is simple.

We all use visual supports


Shocking, I know, but we do. We use them everyday and we often don’t even realize it.  We use them in traffic signs and for direction.

 Some of them have words, but some don’t.  And yet we can clearly tell where the tractor might be on the road and we can clearly tell where there might be deer.  And of course, how else would the deer know where to cross the road, if we didn’t give him a sign??? 🙂

We process information in pictures faster than in words, but sometimes pictures are more confusing.  For instance, I might know that the Slow sign to the left means that a bird is nearby…although I wouldn’t know it’s an endangered species (which apparently I should go slower for than other birds).  😉

Visuals are used an many other ways during our day and on the job as well.  The pictures on the right show labels on a sink telling workers what each part of the sink is designated for.  The picture to the right of that shows a picture task analysis that came in a friend’s coffee maker to show her how to make coffee.  The other two pictures are from retail stores.  One reminds staff to upsell an item and ask if the customer is interested.  One reminds them to open the shoebox and make sure the shoes match and there is a left and right shoe.  These are not supported employment sites.  These are just stores that have found that providing that visual cue makes their workers more effective and efficient.  It’s a bonus that it would be a great support for someone with a disability.

In addition to the examples above, we use calendars, to-do lists, shopping lists, post-it notes to ourselves, and all sorts of other visual cues.  Over the years I have collected many examples because I find myself frequently trying to help people understand that visuals are not just for people with autism.  Although they may be the student or individual who needs the visual to really get through the day, we all benefit from them.  The schedules we use in class keep the staff on task as much as the students.  Visuals allow us to be independent and not have to keep reminding people of what the expectations are.

So, as we continue through this week of parties and events at school and we enter into the excitement of the holidays at home, remember that this is a time that our students need MORE visual supports–not less and, in fact, everyone can benefit from visual supports.  Hopefully this will give you some ideas and examples to use to help everyone in the school remember as the semester ends and then as we return from break.

Remember, even Santa has a visual support–he makes a list and checks it twice!

I may or may not be blogging over the holidays, but I will be active on the Facebook page and Pinterest.  I know that everyone needs the rest and break from the thoughts of school, and behavior and jobs, including me.  I hope to be making more products over the holidays and should have a new freebie up on the Facebook page sometime before everyone heads back to school.  If inspiration hits me, I may add a post or two.  In the meantime, have a wonderful and restful holiday and I’ll definitely see you back here in the new year!

Until then,

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