Children with ASD often have a preference for visual learning styles where they absorb and process information using the visual system. Visuals can help compliment the use of language and support the development of comprehension and verbal skills. This is particularly important in the early years as it can give them alternatives to expressing themselves while their language is still developing.
Children who have ASD are often described as ‘visual learners’ so using resources such as visuals can support communication. Visual supports can take a number of forms including;
Using Visuals in Playgroup
Playgroups can help children who are still developing language by providing some visual aids around the environment to demonstrate where objects belong, routines and expectations and simple processes for activities. In addition, including some visuals or interactive props during group times can help children feel more engaged.
Use language and actions alongside the visuals to promote development in communication. For example, where a visual is displayed in the bathroom on how to wash hands, an adult can still discuss the process by saying the words and modelling the actions. “we put soap on hands, we scrub, we put out hands under the water, we dry our hands”.
Belonging at Playgroup Visual Charts
Belonging at Playgroup visual charts are a lovely addition that offers a visual representation of a child’s belonging and security to a playgroup community. It is a simple transition into a session that children can participate in on arrival. Although not specific for children on the spectrum, the process can increase their understanding of how they are a part of the playgroup community, supporting their feelings of inclusion, security and belonging.
Print and laminate the belonging at Playgroup chart and stick on a wall at child’s height that is easily accessible. Place velcro tabs inside the circle.
Ask every parent in the playgroup to provide a small passport sized photo of their child which should be laminated for durability. Place the opposite velcro tab on the back of each photo and spread out all the photos on a child sized table next to the chart.
Parents should be encouraged to take their child to the table on arrival and find the picture of themselves. The child should then be encouraged to attach the photo inside the playgroup circle to symbolise their “belonging” to their safe and welcoming playgroup community alongside their friends.
Activity schedule or playgroup sequence
Children on the spectrum may require a visual representation of the routine of playgroup to allow them a better understanding as to what will happen in a session. Displaying a chart or sequence of events that can be easily seen will help them prepare for changes and transitions between activities.
Download your playgroup sequence and display near your belonging at playgroup chart where it can easily be seen by attending children. When they arrive, get down to their level and point at each picture, using simple language to explain each step and what will be happening throughout the day.
Visuals for Toys
Children with ASD or developing language, might benefit from the addition of visuals labelled on the shelves, tubs or baskets, that will clearly mark where toys live. This will provide an additional form of communication that children may find simpler to understand, especially in times of instruction where children might be encouraged to help pack away resources. Tasks like this can be difficult for children if their language is still developing and can even be stressful if they don’t know what the expectation is, so visual representation can help them gain further clarity around tasks.
To implement this at your playgroup, you simply need to take photos of the toys, laminate pictures and attach them to the tubs, baskets or shelves so that children can see a visual representation of where a toy lives. This will allow them to better understand the process as it is important to remember that children on the spectrum are often still developing their language and communication.
Breaking down tasks
Children on the spectrum can benefit from breaking down tasks to learn new skills, and visuals can be complimentary to this process. Visuals can be used in this way to help support development in many skills that include the process of bedtime, brushing our teeth or getting ready in the morning.
This involves breaking down tasks into simple steps and using a picture to represent each step. You can display these in a sequence form on the wall, develop them into a social story or simply punch a hole in them and tie them up with string, showing the child each step as you discuss it.
At playgroup, you might find it beneficial to display some basic sequences that demonstrate processes. The following demonstrates the process of hand washing and can be placed on the wall near the sink.