If you work with speech clients, you probably already know the huge value of visual support in your sessions. But, visual supports aren't just for SLPs! Preschool and early elementary school teachers, as well as parents, can all benefit from using visual support in activities with kids! Today, I am discussing why you might want to include more visual support in your sessions, lessons or at home with your own kids!
Why Visual Supports Are So Helpful
When I worked a caseload in a school, more often than not it consisted primarily of preschoolers with autism and other developmental disabilities. I absolutely loved (and still love) working with this population! In this role, I relied heavily on visual supports in my sessions, as typically, at least 50% of my caseload was non-verbal.
It’s hard to imagine how these nonverbal students are feeling but think about this… Have you ever been sick and lost your voice? (I’m sure you are all shaking your heads “yes” right now.) Try and think back to that time.... Were you frustrated? Was it difficult to “rest your voice” and actually not speak for the day?
Well, I can say from personal experience, that losing my voice even for just one day was EXTREMELY frustrating. Thinking about your own experiences might make you realize how upset and frustrated a person must be who cannot verbalize his/her wants and needs on a daily basis.
This is where visual supports come into play! As SLPs, we know that using more visual stimuli not only motivates children with limited verbal communication but also provides meaning and gives them a “voice”. SLPs and teachers often create and use visual supports for these individuals. This helps increase the understanding of language, encourages positive behavior, and provides structure and support. The best part is, that these visual supports can be used across multiple settings like school, home, work, and within the community.
Visual Supports For SLPs And Teachers
As SLPs, we know how important the ability to communicate is and how it is an integral part of life. It’s really the key to being able to interact and have relationships with peers, parents, family, and friends. However, we know not everyone has such an easy time communicating. I’m sure many of you have worked with children and/or adults that are nonverbal or lack the ability to effectively communicate at one time or another.
Part of our job as SLPs is to find an augmentative or alternative communication (AAC) method to help these people with severe communication impairments. I can’t stress enough the importance in finding adaptive ways to help these students communicate and play with the hope to possibly stimulate speech or increase cognitive growth.
Nowadays there are so many wonderful ways to provide visual cues and supports including communication apps and picture activities that show images of objects, people, and more. After a quick online search, you will find tons of fantastic materials. But, if you're looking to create your own visual supports for your classroom lessons or SLP sessions, I recommend checking out Smarty Symbols.
Smarty Symbols is the “go-to” place for educational-based graphics! The image library currently consists of over 13,000 images that can be used by just about anyone to create fantastic materials! One of the awesome things about the “image club” is that they offer both commercial and non-commercial subscriptions. This means you can either create materials for your own personal use (non-commercial) OR you may create materials to sell on Teachers Pay Teachers, Etsy, etc. (commercial).
The website is really easy to navigate too. You can either search for an image or click on one of the many categories to find exactly what you need. As an SLP, I love that there are categories such as sign language, speech therapy, feelings, and action words that work perfectly for my students and materials.
Visual supports are valuable learning tools that can help increase the understanding of language, encourage positive behavior, and provide structure and support. Whether you are working with pre-readers, They all serve as a teaching tool allowing parents, teachers, and educators to target various communication skills.
I believe in the power of visual supports so much that I build them into all of my resources. Whether I'm working on articulation, sentence structure, vocabulary development or independence, visuals are a huge help!
For all of these reasons, I highly recommend using visual supports at home with your own children as well! There is simply so much that children can gain from visual supports, especially in the early stages of language development.
One of my favorite things to do in speech sessions and at home with my own son is incorporate cooking activities. Cooking with kids presents SO many language development opportunities, easily snags their interest and will create lasting memories. Luckily, it's also a topic that you can incorporate visual supports with seamlessly!
Cooking With Visual Supports
When I was working in schools as an SLP, I made sure to include cooking as often as possible, because it's such a great activity for my non-verbal students. I love using recipes that have a visual recipe card to help illustrate the process, tools and ingredients to my students.
Using cooking activities with a visual recipe card is a great way to help students learn new vocabulary words, discover basic cooking techniques and encourage speech in a fun and exciting way. Visual recipe cards are fantastic in the speech room, but they are also wonderful for all educators and families who wish to dive into cooking with their own children!
Try Visual Supports With The Kids In Your Life
Ready to dive in and try some visual supports on your own? I hope so! Adding visual supports to your SLP sessions, classroom learning or even as an activity at home with your own children has so many benefits!
Today, you can grab my Smores on a Stick Visual Recipe as a fun freebie to test out! Included with this visual recipe card, you will also find vocabulary cards with visual supports and comprehension questions. This activity is carefully crafted with non-verbal participants in mind and made to encourage and stimulate speech.
I'd also love for you to try a non-cooking activity with visual supports. This Nature Scavenger Hunt is a great way to give those littles some independence in this activity, build vocabulary and work on their speech and language goals.
Save These Ideas For Later
Don't forget to Pin these ideas on your favorite Pinterest board for when you're ready to start using visual supports with you students, SLP clients or your own kids!!