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How to use visual aids to communicate with children with autism?

Children with autism tend to learn best through visual communication rather than auditory communication. This means they are able to communicate more efficiently with visual aids such as pictures or videos, rather than through verbal communication. Seeing it, rather than saying it, helps children with ASD process and retain information better. Visual supports can be pictures, objects, sign language or text, they come in a variety of forms. Parents also have the ability to make their own unique visual aids by taking and printing out pictures from a camera, printing out online visual aids and schedules that they feel would best help their child, as well as many apps that assist parents in generating their own visual aids.

With the help of visual aids, parents can help increase communication with their children by:

  1. Creating visual aids with blocks of time to show a daily or weekly schedule. This helps to create a solid routine for children with ASD in a way that they can see and understand. Parents can also add fun stickers as reinforcers when a child has had a good day.
  2. Create visual and engaging to do lists with fun activities in between that represent different tasks in a creative way, this will increase your child’s focus and attention towards the chores or activities listed out on the visual schedule.
  3. Offer visual choices so your child has the ability to show what they would prefer without the need for verbal communication. These can be choices of snacks, what they would like to do in their free time etc. depicted on autism choice boards.
  4. Provide your child with visuals that mean different things or depict different emotions so they can communicate their needs without having to communicate them verbally to those around them.

Visual schedules can be constructed by placing different visual aids depicting the routine your child has to follow throughout the day in either a vertical or horizontal layout. These visual aids can go from depicting the first steps a child’s routine consists of in the morning (such as brushing your teeth and washing your face), all the way to the steps a child’s routine consists of before going to sleep at night (such as changing into your night clothes etc). This makes it easier for children with ASD to follow instructions and get into a familiar routine.

Furthermore, choice boards have the ability to increase independence for children with ASD and allow them to demonstrate free will. Choice boards can depict a limitless number of choices of activities that your child can easily participate in during the day, and allowing them to feel as if they can exercise some form of power in choosing what they do can help to increase self confidence and independence.