Using Visuals


From pictures reminding children to wash their hands to day planners listing meetings for adults, people of all ages befit from visual reminders.  Often simple illustrations or words hung in critical areas can reduce the need to remind children to wash their hands, put away their coat, or finish their work.  Below are six steps for helping kids become more organized and independent through visuals.


1. Select a level:  Objects, photographs, colored drawings, line drawings, or words are different ways to present information visually.  The more concrete the visual (a photo or an object), the more likely younger and delayed children are to understand the meaning. If you are working with children of varying ability levels, pair visuals so all children can understand the directions.


Examples of visuals:      




Story Page         


Drawing and Writing   


  Take shoes off        


From: Using the Bathroom   



2. Select one image or a sequence:  Sometimes one image is all a child needs for a reminder.  Other times, a sequence of visuals is helpful for remembering all of the steps in a task.  A sequence of visuals also can be used as a schedule to help children transition from one activity to the next through out the day.


Putting dishes in the dishwasher activity sequence:




3. Place visuals appropriately and teach children where to find them:  Place visuals at the child’s level and close to the area where they will be used.  If children have a schedule with multiple activities on it, put the schedule in an easy to access area.  To use the visuals effectively, point out their presence.  Show the child the picture of washing their hands or putting away the dishes. Explain that the visual is a reminder of what to do in the area or during the day.


4. Reinforce using the visuals: When children remember to use the visuals, reinforce their behavior.  Let the child know, “I like how you looked at your homework list and did all of your work.  You can play outside.” Be clear about what you liked and the consequence for completing the task.


5. Involve the child:  If possible, have the child write his/her homework list, select images to represent chores, or help create pictures for the visuals.  If children are involved, they feel more ownership in the activities.  This also helps children learn organizational strategies they can use later in life.


6. Modify the visuals:  Examine the visuals on a regular basis to determine if they are appropriate for the child’s level.  If a child once needed a picture of washing hands but has learned to read be sure to support reading by using a visual with only words (i.e. “Wash hands”). 


© 2006 by The Sandbox Learning Company. All rights reserved. Patents Pending.