A World of Visuals

What are visuals? Put simply, visuals are pictures, images, or objects used to support or substitute written and/or spoken words.


A visual does not just need to be something you print out, it can be an actual object used in visual schedules, if/then schedules, picture communication, choice board, and reward chart. For specific examples, see below. Visuals can also be a summary of information to help in the overall understanding of concepts taught. For example, visual scripts or social scripts (see below for more information). However, don’t mistake visuals for being a way to substitute teaching a concept; use visuals to support the learning of concepts. Visuals can help reduce difficult behaviors, in turn helping people communicate and participate in their environment.


Now that you understand what visuals are, what type of visuals are there?

  • Visual schedules - pictures and/or written words used in a list type of fashion to lay out the activities to be completed in a certain length of time.

  • If/Then visual - Usually used with a non-preferred along with a motivating or preferred activity. If you complete the non-preferred activity (e.g., cleaning your room); then you can play video games (i.e., a preferred activity).

  • Visual timer - A timer that looks like a clock but has a tab to move to the length of time that you want the activity to last (usually the length of time is shown by a color). The child can then see the amount of time the activity is going to last with the color slowly disappearing and finally a timer going off to auditorily let the child know the activity is over.

  • Social stories - A story with visuals (personalized to the child) about a new activity they will do or a new behavior you want to teach (e.g., going to the doctor, going to the beach, not hitting a friend). To make an official social story follow the rules set by Carol Gray.

  • Picture communication - an overall term to mean a way to use pictures to get your wants and needs met. Picture communication can be further divided into “low-tech” (printed visual supports) and “high-tech” (visual supports on a device (e.g., i-pad)).

  • Visual sequence chart - visuals for a sequential list (e.g., how to wash your hands, how to make your bed, etc). You can also write it out as in a visual script (see below).

  • Choice board - a board to offer a few visual choices to a specific activity (e.g., break time, mealtime, etc).

  • Reward chart - After so many stickers, checkmarks, etc. the child gets their chosen reward.

  • Visual scripts/social scripts - a written visual (e.g., steps to solving a problem, steps to a conversation).


What do I need to make my own visuals for free?! You don’t need fancy pictures to make visuals at home. You can use magazine pictures, google images, drawings, be creative and have fun with them!

  • Pictures

  • Laminator and laminating sheets (to help keep your visuals in pristine condition!). This way you can write on it too!

  • Velcro (to easily place and remove your pictures)


There are paid subscriptions you can use for more uniform pictures. Some of them also offer free trials to see if you like them. Below are a few of my favorites:


The information from this article was gathered from the following source:

Rutherford, M., Baxter, J., Grayson, Z., Johnston, L., & O’Hare, A. (2019). Visual supports at home and in the community for individuals with autism spectrum disorders: A scoping review. Autism. Doi: 10.1177/1362361319871756

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Individual therapy is provided in our home-based office setting and is one-on-one with a certified speech-language pathologist. We always invite families and caregivers to be active members of the team and therapy sessions. We specialize in working with children and their families (siblings included!) to address communication challenges in the following areas:

  • Articulation Disorders

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  2. Keeping Kids Engaged During Telepractice


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About the Author Lauren Purcell is a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP). She graduated from San Jose State University in California with a Bachelor of Arts in Communicative Disorders and Sciences and a Master of Arts in Education/Speech Pathology.

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