Sunday, May 4, 2008

Visual Supports

Do you make lists for the grocery store?

Do you use a calendar to help you remember your appointments and meetings?

Do you print out agendas for staff meetings?

Do you keep an e-mail until you attend to whatever task was outlined in the e-mail?

If you answered "yes" to any of the questions, chances are you use visual supports to help you organize your tasks or thoughts.

I have "stolen" an idea from my assistant for when I need to remember to bring something from home to school. I write a note, wrap it bracelet-style around the strap of my purse and staple the ends together. This way, when I pick up my purse the following morning, I have a visual reminder to bring what I wanted. (And, yes, I did actually pick up ladybugs from a local nursery and take them to school.)

Sometimes, if I remember something at home that I need to take care of at school the following day, I send myself an e-mail.

One of the first ways I integrate visual supports in the classroom is with a daily schedule. I have found that I prefer to make the schedule on sentence strips, glue the picture and a word and laminate each activity separately. Then depending where I post it, I put a magnet strip or velcro on the back. By laminating each activity separately, I can adjust the posted schedule when needed or when we have a special activity scheduled. It also makes it easier to discuss schedule changes that are unplanned. Sometimes things happen at school that are beyond the teacher's control (i.e. the art teacher goes home sick, it's raining). For children who rely on a schedule, it is nice to be able to tell them the schedule has to change, why it's changing and then post the new schedule (i.e. we go to music with Mrs. Smith's class, we have inside choice instead of playground.)

We also use visual supports during many of our Reading or Pre-Reading Lessons. Jefferson Parrish AAC has some wonderful books that can be downloaded, printed, laminated, and velcro-ed (ha! is that a new word? Maybe I could be like Rachel Ray and get a new word introduced to the dictionary.) We use these books to increase attention to task, teach basic concepts, and introduce new vocabulary. Literacy Visuals are also available for many common songs and stories. Again, I like to have each piece laminated separately. Then I can pass them out to children and have the child place the piece either in the story or on a felt board. Children love doing this and it requires active engagement in the lesson.

Visual supports can also be used to help students communicate. Students can point to choices, wants or needs. They can also hand a picture to a staff member to communicate wants/needs or thoughts. This is called a Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS). Check out the Boardmaker materials at Mayer Johnson or some of the free symbols at Do2Learn.

Adding visual supports to lessons, transitions or classroom routines helps children access the learning environment and curriculum. Visual supports help people organize their lives. They help us remember what we need to do. They help us remember ideas for later use. They help us prepare for upcoming events. If as adults, we recognize the use and value of visual strategies to help us perform, shouldn't we find ways to integrate this in the classroom?


Mike said...

This blog might be usefull to you...


Michelle_special_ed_teacher said...

Thanks for the link. I added my blog to the list of special education blogs. Great place to find several resources in one place!

Mike said...

And is a great resource for games and edu!