What is a visual support?
A visual support is anything visual (typically a picture) that functions as a tool to help someone learn something. It can help a learner better understand a message or serve as a reminder to do something. Speech-language pathologists and teachers are huge users of visual supports. You may have noticed your child’s preschool or elementary school classroom has a daily schedule, with pictures for each activity. Visual supports can benefit all children and are easy to make at home.
How can a visual help my child learn a routine?
Visual supports can help your child learn a routine by showing him/her what needs to be done and in what order. For instance, if bedtime is chaotic every night, creating a visual routine is worth a try. Think about the big steps that have to be completed: putting on pajamas, brushing teeth, a story or game and anything else that is a common occurrence in your home. Putting pictures together of all of these steps can give your child something to reference when completing this routine and serve as a reminder of what needs to be done.
Creating your own visual support
Now, we will go through a step-by-step guide to creating a visual support to use at home. We will also deliver tips for including your child in this process. Being part of the creation of this visual routine may promote ownership of the final product in your child. Even better, there are great language learning opportunities every step of the way.
Think of a routine you want to work on and list all the steps
As a parent, you have the best idea of what routine you want to work on. Once you have chosen a routine, tell your child you are putting pictures together about the routine. For this guide, let’s pretend we are working on a bedtime routine. Ask your child what has to be done before bed. This activity can help your child learn to sequence events in order. If your child needs help, ask questions like, “What do we do first, read a story or put on pajamas?” Once the sequence is written out, go back over it with your child to reinforce what happens first, last and in-between.
Find or take pictures to represent each step
To create your visual routine, you can use the computer or make it by hand. If you have a printer at home, it may be faster and easier to use the computer. Open up a word processing program and use the internet to find pictures for each step. You can also take picture of your child’s bedroom, toothbrush and other relevant items. Have your child participate in this by helping to choose each picture. You can reinforce the sequence you discussed in step 1 by looking for the pictures in order. What picture do you need first? What picture should you find last?
Put it all together
You can be as creative as you want when creating your visual routine. You may want to cut out your pictures and glue them onto colorful construction paper. You can also create a mini book, with a page for each step. Whatever process you use, include your child. Continue to talk about each step.
Practice your routine
You have a finished product! Now, it is time to put it into action. Do a couple practice runs with your child. Tell them what needs to be done in each step, while referencing the pictures you have selected. Promote your child’s pretend play skills by acting out each step. Next, act out the routine yourself, but make mistakes on purpose. Can your child correct you? If your child doesn’t notice your misstep, refer to the visual routine and ask “After putting my pajamas on, should I have brushed my teeth or gotten into bed?” If your child still has a hard time, go over the schedule up to that point. You can say something like, “First I put on my pajamas, then I needed to brush my teeth. I know that’s right because our pictures showed me!” Continue to practice each night, reminding your child to look at the visual routine you made together. Celebrate when your child follows the routine by him/herself. You’ve both worked hard!
You can create a visual to support any routine you think your child needs help with. Including your child in the process will make it fun and create many language learning opportunities.
What routine do you want to create a visual for? Tell us about your experience!