Visual supports are a communication tool that present information using symbols, photographs, written words, or objects. Visual supports are particularly helpful for children who may have challenges in their comprehension (understanding what is being said) or organisational challenges (organising their thoughts or body to execute a task).

A visual schedule is one of the most common visual supports. This is a set of pictures that show activities or steps in activities. For example a visual schedule of the sequence of eating a meal. Some children also may have visual schedules as a routine for their overall day.

Visual supports can help to:

  • Provide structure and routine
  • Support regulation
  • Support organisation
  • Encourage independence
  • Improve understanding
  • Reduce frustration and anxiety (by reducing the fear of what could come next)
  • Provide opportunities to interact with other people

Copyright QuirkRoberts Publishing, 2021

Your child may benefit from visual supports if they struggle:

  • To organise themselves to execute tasks
  • To follow instructions and sequences
  • To understand others and what is happening around them
  • Without routine
  • With regulation within the unknown

Visual supports can be used in a variety of ways:

  • As a single message e.g. single card indicating toilet
  • In combination to create a daily schedule or activity sequence
  • To encourage choice making i.e. the child can choose a symbol to put on their daily schedule when it is time for their choice in the day
  • Within a social story to highlight expectations and what can happen within certain activities or events i.e. hairdressing social story.

Examples of visual supports:

Basic Symbols

Resource: BoardMaker 7 Editor

Choice Boards

Resource : Twinkl

First-Then Visual

Resource: My Therapy House® Visual Book


Resource: Elsie and Me

Visual Schedule

Resource: BoardMaker 7 Editor

Social Stories

Resource: Twinkl

Safety Signs

Resource: BoardMaker 7 Editor

Activity Sequences

Resource: Twinkl

Helpful Resources:

Book: Temple Grandin, Thinking in Pictures: My life with Autism, 2006

Youtube clip : Dr. Temple Grandin Describes Thinking in Pictures – YouTube

Book: Ellen Notbohm, Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew, 2019

Video: Autism, Visual Thinking and Communication – An Autistic Perspective

Website: – What Is A Social Story?



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