Why classroom visual supports help

I use visual supports for lots of things. I have students with visual schedules, reinforcements/rewards, and even on my anchor charts. It’s the first thing I look for when walking into a classroom—to support students. Many of my students need as much structure as they can get but in my building like many don’t have tons of extra support. Visuals provide that for them. You can never have to many visuals.

Visual supports can be very powerful tools to help increase independence and supporting students. Remember students not just those with autism have communication deficits they cannot express themselves effectively. Language difficulties may make it difficult for these students to understand what is expected of them. They may be confused about what is happening. Visual supports can reduce problem behaviors and increase effective communication interactions for students.

Visual supports have proven to be a huge success with my students when helping to mainstream them into their general education classrooms. Visual supports will allow students with special needs access to the general education curriculum and will help with the inclusion process. For some students, their visuals are almost a lifeline to help them through their day.

I often laugh at my observation that many times an adult is the one who is causing the problem for a child who is having a meltdown. One day, I just could not figure out why one of my students was literally
in tears heading to music class. Oops! Forgot his visual schedule! For this particular student, his visual schedule book helps him understand the rules and expectations in music class. He knows exactly what he needs to do and for a child who has such a severe language impairment and therefore cannot communicate like other students, his visuals help him connect with everyone else. A brief jog back to his classroom to grab that book and he was all ready for music with a smile on his face! Whew!!

I am often shocked at the unwillingness of some teachers to implement visuals for students who could benefit from their support. But when I take a step back I realize what we all know is true: change is difficult and if we are going to put in the effort to implement something, we want results! Like anything, visuals are going to take time to TEACH.

A student will not be able to use them successfully their first day, or even their first week. But, with continued exposure and explanation, visuals will help students. And the great thing is – visuals have not only been shown to be successful for students with disabilities but with ALL students.
If you create a classroom for a student with autism, you have created a classroom for all students to thrive in. Visuals should be part of that classroom!

Not only can you create a visual schedule for the day, but you can create a visual sequence of events for different activities in you class. For example at the art table, you can have a set of pictures or written rules with step by step directions for the project.

I'd love to hear, what kind of visuals do you find that you and your students can't live without?

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