Visuals are a must when teaching students with autism spectrum disorders and other special needs. Often, we place the visual reminders about rules and routines in centers or show them during group times without remembering that we need first to teach the meaning of these visuals during 1:1 practice with staff.
Then we present the same visual we use at teacher table in a new setting, such as here where the boys are playing with trucks and learning to trade when their teacher shows the reminder that it is time to trade. Because the boys have learned to trade with the teacher when shown this visual prompt during 1 on 1 times, they know what to do when playing with each other.
Once students find the visual prompts meaningful because they have worked on understanding them during 1:1 times with staff, the teacher can then present the visuals during group times. In this example, the teacher has put the important group rule reminders into a flipbook. If a student needs a reminder during group time, she finds the applicable page in the book and shows it to the child. Because the student can look at the reminder and then knows what to do, the teacher does not need to interrupt group time by verbally correcting the student.
In other situations, children might be given small cards with the visual prompt that reminds them of the rule or routine. Here, the student sees the card and understands he is to wait.
Two students will play with puzzles independently. The teacher sets up two puzzles, a bin with the pieces hidden, and a posted visual reminder to give the piece found if it does not fit into the puzzle in front of them. Because they learned the meaning of this visual prompt during teacher time, they know what it means. If the teacher sees that they are not giving a piece that fits into their peer’s puzzle, she does not say anything but instead points to the visual “give” prompt. The teacher follows this procedure because she wants the students to look for the visuals and utilize them instead of being dependent on teacher prompts.
Looking for visuals in all settings and then following the direction given by the visual leads to greater independence for our students.