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Using Visual Aids

Brief Understanding in Using Visual Aids

Individuals on the autism spectrum tend to learn best using visual supports rather than through auditory input. It not only helps process information better, it also aids in retaining the necessary information.

Types of visual support

A wide range of items can be used as visual supports. For example:

  • Photographs

  • Short videos

  • Miniatures of real objects

  • Coloured pictures

  • Line drawings

  • Symbols

  • Written words

These can be on a smartphone, tablet or computer.

How can visual supports be used?

With visual supports you can:

  1. Create daily/weekly schedules

  2. Show sequential steps in a task such as a bedtime routine or getting dressed

  3. Colour coding a message, eg the person takes a yellow card from their pocket when they need to go to the toilet, or puts purple card on the board when they’re feeling stressed

  4. To make a choice between activities

  5. To illustrate a social story or comic strip conversation.

What is the best way to use Visual Supports

There is a hierarchy to using visual supports. Start with matching

  • an object to object,

  • then object to picture,

  • then picture to picture.

You begin with using the actual object matching to the same object. Once that is mastered, then match an object to a picture. This helps the child understand that a picture can be a representation of an object. Finally, you can match a picture to a picture.

Some ways to maximise the use of visual supports

Ensure Portability by:

  • Using a visual supports app on the person’s tablet

  • Storing photos and pictures on the person’s smartphone

  • Putting symbols, pictures and schedules in a folder for the person to carry with them.

Check for Durability

  • Laminate printed visual supports.

  • Back up any app, photos and pictures you use on a smartphone, tablet or computer.

Ensure easy access

  • Placing them in prominent places at eye level

  • Putting them on an actual object

  • Having a shortcut of the app on the tablet home screen

  • Attaching symbols to boards so that people know where to go to look at them - you could also use Velcro strips to attach symbols to a board, meaning schedules can be easily altered, eg activities removed once completed.


Visual supports are very personal and what works for one person may not work for another. Use the person’s special interest, eg a visual timetable could be made in the shape of a rocket.

Being Consistent

As much as possible use a particular style of visual support (for example, line drawings), consistently. Ask family members, friends, teachers or support workers to use the same visual supports consistently.

When do I stop using visual supports for my child with Autism?

All of us use some sort of visual tool to create schedules and keep ourselves organized. Similarly, using tools to create visual schedules for individuals on the spectrum creates predictability which lessens anxiety.


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