Using Visual Cards to Support Individuals with Autism - Hidden Talents ABA

Using Visual Cards to Support Individuals with Autism

graphic image graphic image
blog image
February 14, 2024 Using Visual Cards to Support Individuals with Autism

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex neurological and developmental disorder that affects an individual's social interaction, communication, interests, and behavior. It's often characterized by unique strengths and differences. However, it also presents challenges, particularly difficulties in terms of communication, language, and comprehension.

One effective strategy that has been used to support students and individuals with autism is the use of visual cards.

a kid with autism is using a visual cards to make an artwork.

What are Visual Cards for Autism?

Visual cards, also known as visual aids or visual supports, are tools used to make the communication process easier for those with ASD. They can take various forms - pictures, drawings, written words, objects, or symbols, all designed to help those with autism understand and navigate their world.

These cards can be particularly helpful and beneficial for students and those on the autism spectrum, who often tend to be visual thinkers. This means they may comprehend and process information better when it's presented visually, in print rather than orally.

Types of Visual Supports

Visual supports can be categorized based on their function and complexity. Some of the most common types include:

  • Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS): This is an approach where individuals use pictures to communicate their needs and thoughts with others.
  • Social Stories™: Created by Carol Gray, Social Stories™ are brief descriptions of social interactions or situations that help individuals understand expected behaviors and responses.
  • Timetables and Schedules: These provide a visual representation of a sequence of activities, which can help to establish routine and reduce anxiety.
  • Visual Boundaries: Setting up physical indicators to suggest where an activity happens or where an individual can go.
  • Choice Boards: These are visual displays of options from which an individual can choose, giving them a sense of control and decision-making power.
  • Flash Cards: Uses pictures and words to teach concepts, vocabulary, or to support academic learning.
  • Emotion Cards: These depict different emotions and can be used to help individuals identify and communicate their feelings.

Each type of visual support can be tailored to the individual or student's personal level of understanding and the context in which they will be used.

Image of autism awareness ribbon made of eyeglasses with picture cards underneath

The Benefits of Visual Cards

  1. Improved Communication: Visual cards can help bridge the gap in communication for those who struggle with verbal communication. They provide a concrete and visual way to represent activities, routines, or concepts.
  2. Reduced Anxiety: For many individuals with autism, changes in routine or unexpected events can lead to stress and anxiety. Visual cards can help by providing a visual schedule of the day's activities, giving them a sense of predictability and control.
  3. Increased Independence: By using visual cards, individuals with autism can perform tasks and routines independently. They no longer have to rely solely on memory or verbal instructions.
  4. Enhanced Social Skills: Visual cards can also be used to teach social skills, like understanding emotions, appropriate behaviors, and social norms.

Implementing Visual Cards

Implementing visual cards into daily routines can be a simple process. Here are a few steps:

  1. Identify Needs: Determine where the individual struggles most. It could be communication, understanding emotions, following routines, or social interactions.
  2. Choose Appropriate Visuals: Depending on the individual's age and developmental level, decide on the type of visual that would be most effective. It can range from actual photos to simple drawings or symbols.
  3. Introduce Gradually: Introduce the cards slowly and in a supportive environment. Use them consistently for best results.
  4. Review and Adjust: Regularly review the effectiveness of the visual cards, and adjust as necessary. They should evolve with the individual's needs and abilities.

Visual cards are a simple yet effective tool for supporting children and individuals with autism. They help bridge communication gaps, reduce anxiety, increase independence, create, and enhance social skills. With patience and consistency, they can make a significant difference in the lives of children and those with ASD.

Child with autism playing with balloons adorned with visual cards

Remember, every individual with autism is unique, and what works for one child might not work for another. Therefore, it's essential to tailor these tools to meet their specific needs and abilities.