In order for communication to take place, a person needs
to understand his environmentand know what is expected of
him. It can be very frustrating to not know what is
happening or what to do. Frustration can breed inappropriate behavior.
Information which helps structure tasks and explain expectations
can be presented visually using picture cards. Used singly or grouped
in a sequence, these picture cards help to teach skills and reduce
anxiety, resulting in more competent and independent behavior.
For people with attentional
difficulties, pictures can be used as cues for completing a sequence
of tasks. The same strategies are useful with older children and
adults - just replace pictures with written descriptions.
Methods of using pictures include schedules to organize activities,
strips to tell a story, and individual cards exchanged with
another person as a form of visual talking. On our web site,
we have provided a variety of printable picture cards to create
your own visual communication tools. The examples given are
far from exhaustive, but are an attempt to share successful
ideas with parents and teachers. Any
tool will be most successful if it makes a concrete connection
to the person based on his strengths, needs, and level of
We usually learn in steps which start simply and then
get more abstract. The ability to understand different levels
of abstraction will vary from person to person.
Most of us learn about objects and actions using the following
common levels of abstraction:
actual objects and actions
photographs of objects and actions
black and white line drawings of objects
written words which describe objects
For example, consider how someone with special needs
might learn to request a drink: Starting with a picture to
make a request for a real object can be too abstract. Initially,
a person might need a real cup to request juice. You can teach
that a picture of a cup and a real cup represent the same
thing by first using the real cup with the picture, and then
transitioning to just using the picture. Some learners may
always prefer the real object. The goal is simply to provide
whatever makes the connection for an individual. If you see
confusion or frustration in the learner's attempts to communicate,
decrease the level of abstraction
Photography tips: When taking
photographs to use for communication, it is helpful to make
the photograph as simple as possible. Include only one object
in the picture or make the background blank. Some individuals
have difficulty generalizing, so it may also be helpful to
avoid including details such as the title of the book or video,
or the labels on a food or drink item.
Need more Picture Cards? View2Do is an online program that lets you create customized teaching aids for visual learners.