By Joan Green
What are visual strategies?
Visual strategies are simply ways to provide information visually. Common examples in everyday life are: calendars, shopping lists, maps, assembly instructions, traffic signal, GPS devices, isle markers in stores, taking notes in meetings, street signs etc. Once said, words are like smoke; they disappear. Once signed and hands are quiet the information is gone. However, written and/or picture information, used with or without speech or signs, provides an opportunity to visually process information and to revisit the information if needed. Furthermore, anyone with vision, especially visual learners, can benefit from visual strategies.
Types of visual communication:
- Pointing—drawing attention to something seen
- Sign language—ASL or signed English
- Written—for readers
- Pictures—photographs or drawings
- Pictures with words—understandable to the largest group of people, literate, non-literate, English-as-a-second-language all can benefit!
Ways visual strategies can be used with students:
- Visual schedule for the day—class schedule or individual
- Demonstrate changes in expected activity (no speech today)
- Clarify information—fire drill—show picture of what is going to happen
- Weekly schedule—when or why no school (Monday no school, Martin Luther King Holiday etc.)
- Transition—when leaving classroom, show or give picture of where you are going
- Students indicate wants, needs, feelings, ask/answer questions
- Students initiate communication—place wanted materials out of reach with pictures/sentence strips underneath within reach
- Reminders to stay on task—visual clock timer, water/oil timer, sand timer
- Reminder to stay in assigned area—colored tape on floor
- Communication books—class and individual
- Snack books—individual with preferred items
- Speech book—confer with SLP on lessons planned—make cards to ask, “What did you just do?” “What might happen next?”
- Picture/name cards—Whose turn is it? Who is here today? What is this person’s name? Line up by name.
Using visual strategies to promote literacy:
- Write words on old language cards—Peabody cards, verb and noun picture cards
- Worksheets—make two copies of each handout, color, cut, and laminate and Velcro
- Make biographies for each child—if you can read a picture sentence, you can read a book of picture sentences! Biographies are based upon individualized interests and can be very motivating.
- Make copies of all activities to be sent home for practice and to maximize benefits
- Put labels on items in room, give them a copy of the word if you want them to match it, and have the children either point the item out to you or go to the item and touch it or bring it to you—table, TV, closet, books, mirror, chair etc.
Ways to incorporate educational goals in a hospital setting:
- Schedule: Use whiteboard on wall to write visual schedule of the day to show child what they can expect to happen that day—8:00 AM breakfast and medication, 10:00 therapy dog visit, 12:00 lunch, 2:00 Dr. visit, 3:00 physical therapy, 5:00 dinner etc.
- Fine motor: Have child draw pictures of the people they see each day. Label the pictures and put on wall.
- Safety signs: Go on “field trip” in wheelchair and find safety signs” (in/out, open, do not enter, men/women bathrooms, danger etc. as well as specific signs that are seen in hospitals), bring cards of signs and have them match, make a list of the signs they see, write a sentence about what each sign means, draw a picture of each sign etc.
- Reading: label items in the room, give child cards and have them read the cards (closet, bathroom, mirror, bed, window, door, tray etc.)
- Writing: Write a biography or journal of each day. Have the child draw a picture on the top of a piece of paper and write a sentence or two underneath. (“Today I met Chowder, the Chow therapy dog. He was brown, big, and soft.” “He kissed me!”)
- Math: Count and make a checklist of the number of people that come into the room each day. Create a graph to see what days are the busiest. Multiply the number by 7 to see how many people came into the room during the week. Etc.
- Language Arts: Attach Velcro to the back of language cards to identify, label, categorize, create sentences, answer who/what/where questions, sequence activities etc.
- Attach felt to the back of a small whiteboard and a clipboard. Use the whiteboard and clipboard to write, color, do homework on and the back for activities that use Velcro
Some helpful resources:
- Interactive Reading Books
- How Do I Teach This Kid to Read?
- Picture Exchange Communication System
- Interactive Reading Book Software—Joan Green www.greenhousepub.com
- Picture This Picture Software
Joan Green currently runs Greenhouse Tutoring Center for Young Children with Special Needs. She was a special education teacher in the Los Angeles school system for 16 years and was awarded Special Education Teacher of the Year. She served as a member of their Autism Task Force and co-authored a certification of competency for teaching children with autism. As an educational consultant she is frequently called upon as a guest speaker for national organizations. Joan developed many teaching aids over the course of her classroom experience and is a member of the National Autism Resources advisory board.