What are visual supports?

Visual supports are a tool to support someone’s understanding of their day, an activity or a task.

We actually all use visual supports every day. We use our diary or calendar to remember events, we use street signs and directional signs to find our way and icons or images on the oven or washing machine.

People with communication difficulties can benefit from visual supports for many reasons. It can support a person’s understanding of their day, of expected behaviour or as reminder to complete certain tasks.

Visual supports might be symbols (such as Picture Communication Symbols), photos or real objects.

There are several types of visual supports – we will look at 5.

5 ways with visual supports

Who’s here today board

These are great for schools, adult disability services and other groups. Take photos of everyone and use them to display who is here and who is away. It can be useful for people who frequently ask where someone is or when particular staff will be coming.

First – Then

“First – reading, Then – ipad.”

This tool can be used by therapists, parents, teachers and support workers of children and adults. It sets a clear expectation of what you would like the person to do first and then providing a reward or reinforcement second.

Daily timetable

For individuals with difficulty reading using symbols or photos can help someone understand what they have on for the day.

Activity sequence

For a child a common activity sequence might be the steps involved in using the toilet or washing their hands.

Adults might benefit from the steps involved in making a cup of coffee.

Activity sequences should be placed in the area the activity will be done. E.g.: the bathroom or near the kettle.

Shopping list

We all rely on shopping lists to help us remember what we need. For individuals with reading difficulties, using a picture based shopping list is beneficial.

You could use symbols for shopping list items or take photos of the actual items you buy. Take the visual shopping list with you to the shops and find the items needed.

How can I start making more visual supports?

• Purchase the Tools2Talk+ on the iPad.

• Put in a request to the Non-electronic Communication Aid Scheme (NECAS) for adults or Kids Chat for kids. It’s FREE!

If you would like to know more about using and designing visual support, NECAS, or Kids Chat, contact Scope’s Communication and Inclusion Resource Centre (CIRC) at circ@scopeaust.org.au or 03 9843 2000.