Effective Classroom Instruction:

Visual Tools for Autism: Use Them Everywhere!

Research for This Tool

Visual Tools for Autism: Use Them Everywhere!When young children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have limited verbal skills, using visual tools is often an effective means of communicating. Visual tools can also reduce problems related to frustration or misunderstanding. To use visual tools effectively, make sure that everyone is clear on the purpose of the tool, the type of visual that is most appropriate, and the teaching strategies to be used with the visual. Then use the visual tool everywhere!

Here is an article that has great information on visual supports for young children with ASD and some good guidelines for their use:

Meadan, H., Ostrosky, M.M., Triplett, B., Michna, A. & Rettig, A. (2011). Using visual supports with young children with autism spectrum disorder. TEACHING Exceptional Children, 44, (4), 28-35.

How to Use This Tool

Visual Tools for Autism: Use Them Everywhere!We have examples here of a visual tool intended to teach a young child with ASD not to run away, which can be a dangerous behavior. Instead, adults will teach the child to “Stay with me.” Here are some key points when using visual tools for teaching:

  • Consistency is important in order for the child to learn more quickly, so the visual tool should be used in all environments. As the examples show, the visual tool can be used by the teacher at school, the child’s mother in the grocery store, and his grandmother taking him for a walk.
  • By teaching a replacement behavior for running away (staying with the adult), the student is more likely to learn an alternative that is safe and appropriate.
  • The adult might also model, use a verbal instruction (“Stay with me”), and provide positive feedback and reinforcement as the child learns to safely stay by the adult’s side.

Additional Resources

Visual Tools for Autism: Use Them Everywhere!There are many excellent applications for mobile devices and computers that provide visuals and other communication tools for young children with ASD. The Autism Speaks website has an extensive list of apps, including many for communication. Go to http://www.autismspeaks.org/autism-apps.

If you would like to buy the book that explains the use of visual tools with young children with ASD and contains these illustrations, called Early Start for Young Children with Autism/PDD, click on this link that will take you to the Pro-Ed website: