PODCAST: Using Visual Supports for All Children

PODCAST: Using Visual Supports for All Children


Using visual supports in the classroom has
many benefits for all children. Visuals can support children by helping them
to predict what is happening next in their day; helping children make connections with
what they are told verbally; helping remind children of the steps to directions – such
as washing hands, and overall, can help to reduce challenging behavior by helping children
to know what to expect in different situations. As adults, we use visual supports every day. Think about going into a new building for
the first time. You look for visuals to tell you where to
go – a sign that tells you which direction to go with a specific room name or number
on it. Signs to tell you where to go for the bathroom,
vending machines, stairs, or elevator. When you are driving, there are visuals that
tell you what to expect along the road – such as a stop sign coming up, or that there is
a curve in the road ahead. Visuals are all around us in our daily lives,
and they help us to prepare for what to expect. Visuals can be used the same way with young
children in the classroom. Some children struggle with behavior when
they do not know what to expect. They may become frustrated and act out during
transitions. We can set up a visual schedule that tells
children what will be happening during the day to help reduce this anxiety. When we set the visual schedule up, we can
be mindful of creating it so that when an activity is over, children can help remove
the item or turn the item over on the schedule to show that it is done – this can help
children to visually see what is left to do for the day. It is not enough to just have the schedule
posted, we want to refer to it throughout the day and talk about what has already happened
and what will happen next. When you think about your life as an adult,
you may create lists of things to do, or things to get from the store. You use that list as a reminder of what you
still need to do, and you cross things off when you have accomplished the task or picked
up the item. Then you can easily see what you still have
left to do. This is what the visual schedule can do for
children – help them to see what they still need to do during the day. With some children a daily schedule posted
in the classroom is enough to help guide them when it is referred to throughout the day. Some children may benefit from using an individual
schedule that breaks down different parts of the day. You may create an individual schedule for
a child that has all the activities of large group pictured. The child can then move the pictures to a
folder that says done, move it to a list that says done, or even put a check mark next to
the item that indicates that the activity is finished. Not all children will need this much support
for an activity, but it is a strategy that can really benefit the children who do need
the additional support. Visuals can also be used to help children
throughout other times of the day. We know that giving children choices can help
to reduce power struggles in the classroom. Especially when we give two options to the
child and we are okay with either choice. This gives the child some control over what
is happening. For example, when we ask a child, “do you
want to wash your hands at the sink in here, or at the bathroom sink?” Here, the child is washing their hands either
way, but they get to choose where to do so. When we offer these choices, some children
will be okay with making the choice after hearing it, and other children may need this
paired with a visual. Adding a visual will help children make connections
to the spoken words and provides a reference as the child is processing the words. Whereas pictures are great visuals to have,
to support children throughout the day, it is possible that pictures may be too abstract
for some children. If this is the case, try a visual schedule
with real objects to let children know the times of the day. You might use a book to represent story time,
a shovel to represent outside time, and a favorite toy to represent choice time. There can be a basket set aside for these
items to be placed in once the activity is over. When you give choices to a child, you may
need to use real objects. If you are helping a child choose between
the block area and the dramatic play area, you may have a wooden block and a doll for
the child to see to help them make that choice. This helps to make a more concrete connection
for the child. When we pair visuals with directions, we help
children to understand what we are saying quicker than with words alone. Children need processing time to understand
verbal directions. When children hear a sentence, they process
each word separately as they try to make meaning to what is said. When we add visuals, children are easier able
to make meaning of what is asked of them. One of the nice things to keep in mind with
visuals is that they do not disappear like words do. The children can easily look back at the visual
as a reminder of what was said to them or asked of them. This helps children to become more independent
with their routines as well as decrease confusion about what is expected and can help to reduce
challenging behavior that comes with not understanding what to do.

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