Saturday, December 5, 2009

Visual Supports during Therapy Sessions

It is well known that children with autism and certain other disabilities benefit greatly from the use of visual supports throughout the day. Visual supports can be pictures, objects, written words, body language and cues. Some children use visual supports as a primary means of communication in the classroom and home. If this is a child's sole means of communication, visual supports should be used at all times which would include occupational and physical therapy sessions, physical education class, art, music, library and more.

Here are several ways to incorporate visual supports during a therapy session.

1. When explaining directions to certain children, you may need to provide a visual strategy instead of just verbally expressing directions. Many times picture symbols are used for the child to select a choice or to respond but are you providing picture symbols for "receptive" language as well?

2. Provide responses appropriate for therapy sessions beyond choice selection. Remember children are frequently performing motor tasks and physical activities during a therapy session. You may need to create picture communication boards that allow the child to express statements such as:

I need a rest.
I need some water.
I have pain.
I need to slow down.
I can go faster.
I need to sit.
I am ready.
I need to stop.

3. Create picture symbols that relate to a therapy session. You can use a commercially produced product or take photos of objects that you use during a therapy session. Once you create picture symbol cards of these items, you can use them to allow the children to make choices regarding activities.

4. Create a schedule for during the therapy session. Set up a schedule board with parts of therapy session on it such as warm-up, main activity and clean up. That way the child will know what to expect each time.

5. If you need a child to complete many tasks, try creating visual supports for all the steps in the task. Break the whole project down into simple steps with visuals.

Sensory Mini Books and Charts, by Your Therapy Source Inc, offers over 100 picture word cards related to touch, movements, attention, calming down, eating, smelling and listening. You can create schedule strips and establish sensory likes/ dislikes.

For fine motor projects, with visual supports for all the steps in the tasks check out Step By Step Shape Projects. Download a sample of a puppy project with step by step directions.

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