How To Start
Where to Begin with Visual Supports
1. Decide what the visual supports need to do:
- Provide choices
- Provide information about upcoming activities or people’s whereabouts
- Help with transitions
- Help complete a task involving lots of steps
2. What does your child understand?
- Picture symbols
- Food labels
- Written words
Remember that you don’t want your child to have to struggle to understand what the individual pictures mean. You don’t put your appointments on your calendar in another language, so don’t use visual supports that are difficult for your child to interpret. Abstract images can be hard for some children to understand so you may need to use a photograph instead of a picture symbol. Using colored and/or larger sized pictures can also help your child understand more easily. Also remember to put the exact word on a symbol that you use with your child. If you ask your child if he needs to go potty, don’t put toilet or bathroom on his picture symbol, put potty.
3. Gather labels, make picture symbols, take photographs
- Make them easily identifiable to your child
- Make sure the picture clearly focuses on one and only one thing
Don’t take a picture of the whole living room if the object you need is the television. Make sure things are not blurry, not too dark or hidden by the reflection of a flash. Also beware of possible shadows caused by bubbles in the laminating paper.
If the object you want is the television, take a picture of just the television.
4. Make them durable
- Paste photos to posterboard
- Laminate picture symbols with clear contact paper
- Attach velcro or magnets to the back
5. Decide on location and framework
- What is the logical location for things?
Put food choices on the refrigerator. Pick a good central location in the house for the schedule, maybe on a wall in the kitchen or living room. If your child moves around a lot, playing inside and outside, you may want to create a portable schedule out of a photo album or three ring notebook that she can take with her.
- What is a helpful way to hang the symbols?
You can use posterboard or a non-shag carpet remnant with velcro, a bulletin board, a magnet board, or for portable schedules, a photo album or three ring binder.
- Use a stop pocket or box with schedules.
It is a good idea to use a stop pocket or box with a picture schedule. This is a place, like a basket or envelope, where your child can put a symbol can be put at the end of each activity. It can also double as a way for your child to say he would like to end an activity. Another option is to have your child simply turn the pictures over as each activity is finished. You will also want to have a No Choice symbol for use when a food or activity is unavailable as a choice.