Visual Supports: Communicating “No”

The universal NO sign  can be used with both choice boards and picture schedules. On choice boards, the NO can forewarn your child that a favorite food or toy is not available. On a picture schedule, NO can inform your child that an anticipated activity has been canceled and will be replaced by something else. Visual supports provide your child with this disappointing news in an understandable and reliable way.

They also provide your child with some way to communicate about the desired object or activity. Usually, caregivers adopt an out-of-sight, out-of-mind approach and hide the desired object, package, or picture symbol. This approach is not good and can actually encourage children to hoard food and to obsess about particular items. Clearly communicating “this is not a choice” rather than hiding the object, package, or picture symbol eases the child’s disappointment and frustration and eliminates her need to ask for something over and over again.

As always, it is important to actively involve your child in the use of these supports. For example, when your child finishes a box of her favorite cereal, have the child throw the box in the trash and place the NO over the label on her choice board. Or, if swimming is canceled due to the weather, have the child place the NO over the swim picture. Then direct her to the activity choice board to choose which activity she wants to do instead. Actively involving the child provides her with a sense of control over these changes or prohibitions and minimizes the chance of a power struggle.