With the recent increase in awareness of autism spectrum disorders, specialists and educators have developed innovative new ways to help children and adults with autism learn new skills. Visual strategies are an exciting new teaching method that have played a critical role in helping individuals with autism reach their potential. In addition, these visual tools can help teachers and family members better interact with autistic individuals.
The Value of Visual Tools
For many individuals with autism, understanding language and being able to communicate is extremely challenging. Visual tools can address communication difficulties by helping to introduce basic communication interactions to autistic individuals. Unlike traditional verbal-based teaching tools, these visual aids are static and predictable, helping to alleviate the autistic individual’s inability to cope with unpredictability and helping them to understand communication better. Visual tools help autistic children to understand complex language and social rules by breaking concepts into simple and understandable chunks. Even autistic adults can benefit from these visual aids throughout their lives.
Types of Visual Tools
Educators use many different types of visual aids to help educate autistic individuals. Sometimes people call them visual strategies or visual supports. Simple drawings, pictures or written language can help give information to autistic children to help them understand. Visual schedules can give structure to the daily life of an individual with autism. Currently, mobile apps provide interactive and responsive visual supports to help autistic children relate to the outside world.
Pictures are the foundation of the most common visual tools for autistic individuals. These pictures come in a variety of different forms. Photos, line drawings, clip art and written language are all used with success. Parents or educators can teach the child simple concepts, such as a daily hygiene routine by showing a series of pictures that represent the steps to follow. Pictures can be used to give children with autism information so they know what is happening or what choices they have for snacks or play.
Many individuals with autism rely on rigid schedules to feel secure. If the schedule is disrupted, the individual may act out. Visual schedules are an excellent way to help the individual with autism know what will be happening in his or her life. The visual schedule can then be used to introduce an upcoming change to an autistic individual. Even a simple sequence of images or “mini-schedule” can help ease the worries of the autistic individual. The visual schedule will help children with autism transition more easily through the sequence of activities in a typical day.
Thanks to the boom in mobile technology, the app market has exploded with educational tools for autistic children and adults. These apps seek to both educate and entertain individuals on the autism spectrum. Some apps focus on teaching autistic children basic concepts and vocabulary words. Other apps attempt to explain social rules by teaching autistic individuals to recognize emotions on other people’s faces. Parents and educators keep discovering more ways that apps can help children and adults with autism learn new skills and achieve greater independence.
With the help of low tech and high tech visual tools, educators and parents can teach children with autism how to successfully relate to the world at large. Visual tools and strategies will continue to help them as they grow to adulthood.